Christians trashing Christians??

November 21, 2008 — 3 Comments

 Maybe in the blogosphere the word trashing should be replaced with snarking but that is another issue. Let’s hit this head on. If you search the words “red letter Christian” on WordPress and  other blogs you will find several sites by fellow Christians that are antagonistic to that phrase or even to the concept of using red letters. I must admit the word “trashing” might be a little strong for most of these criticisms but not all. People opposed to this concept seem to think that somehow if you concentrate on the red letters (i.e. the words of Christ)  you are either a heretic or at least a misguided Christian needing correction.  Giving priority to the direct words of Jesus seems almost sacrilegious to some of them. They cite 2Timothy 3:16 for their proof.  All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. To them this means that no words are more important than others.  St Paul wrote the letter that is now recognized as 2 Timothy around AD 60.  Many theologians believe that he was referring to the Jewish Old Testament. The reason for this is as follows. The Gospel of Mark, which is widely believed to be the first of the four gospels written was probably composed about the same time as  2Timothy. Therefore it was very unlikely that Mark’s gospel, or any of the other gospels which came later, was even available to Paul as he was writing these words. Of course Paul was a very devout and knowledgeable Jew before he became a Christian so he was very familiar with the Old Testament. Since it would be another 300+ years before anything resembling our present day Bible was even in existence Paul could not have been talking about the New Testament as we know it. But, I do agree that the New Testament , even if that is not what Paul was talking about , is also useful for teaching and training and such.

Even the term “God-breathed” in this text is highly debatable among many scholars of the Bible.  Many believe that the original text, or should I say the earliest surviving text, is more appropriately translated to be “inspired by God”. To me “God-breathed” and “inspired by God” has two completely different meanings but I will not criticize others who think differently.  Yes, I agree that all of the Bible, and also many of the early Christian writings that did not end up in the Bible, were inspired by God.  But, for me I reserve the words “God breathed” to mean they came directly from Jesus’ mouth or were given directly to some of the OT prophets by God himself.

There is a centuries old ongoing debate in the Christian community between “inerrancy” and “infallibility” when it comes to the Bible.  I fall into the camp of the latter but I will respect my Christian brothers who choose to think differently than me. One of the best things and one of the worst things about the Bible is that two people can read the same words and come away with two completely different meanings.  It often happens that even one person will get two different meanings from one verse depending on where he/she is at on their road with Christ. Some of the sites that speak out against the red letters arrogantly assume that everything they believe is totally true and if you disagree with them then you must be “wrong”. I will not be one to assume that I, or anyone else for that matter, totally knows the heart of God. Won’t those who think that way be surprised when they reach the pearly gates.

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3 responses to Christians trashing Christians??

  1. 

    Inspiration (in+spirit), from the Greek έμπνευση (en+pneuma). The spirit within, literally a case of possession. Not nearly what we have trivialised the word into.

  2. 

    You’re on the right track here, RJ. I am convinced that the application of the term “Word of God” onto the whole Bible is responsible for significant error within the church, and is not supportable by Scripture itself. I have written a whole series of posts on this subject on my own blog, but I particularly invite you to consider my alternative reading of 2Tim:3:14-16 (part of the problem is taking v. 16 as a standalone unit). You’ll find it here:
    http://nailtothedoor.blogspot.com/2008/07/biblical-inspiration-part-3-but-what.html

    Peace,

    Dan

  3. 

    And actually, Assentia’s comment is not relevant to the 2 Tim passage, where the word is actually the nominative adjective “theopneustos” which is roughly “God-breathed.” We must recognize, of course, that “pneuma” and its variants in Greek are sometimes translated as “breath” or “wind” and others as “spirit” so for us to throw our assumptions based on the English word, into the mix is shaky.

    But the real issue, which I discuss in my more extensive post linked above, is that v. 16 does not contain a form of the “be” verb, and therefore cannot be a declarative statement about Scripture, that it has been made into. It doesn’t say “all Scripture is inspired,” but rather, I suggest, that it refers back to the “holy Scriptures” Paul says Timothy was taught from youth, all of which, Paul says, were inspired.

    Given that Timothy was trained in the Jewish tradition by his mother & grandmother, this is likely referring to the Law & the Prophets.

    Nevertheless there is no doubt, as both of you are saying, that this passage is NOT implying a literal inerrancy for everything in our current canon.

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