Thursday, June 26, 2008

Dear Friends....

Dear Friends,
I wish to thank you all for your help in my growing understanding of the word of God. So many of you learned folk have repeatedly told me that scripture is not only inspired, but that it is the inerrant word of God, and now I have to take this on board. After all, who am I to know the mind of God? When my friends argue with me from their liberal agenda I can tell them that the Word of God is inerrant. “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.” (2 Timothy 3.16-17.) End of discussion.

There are just one or two areas of confusion I need your help on:

• When we talk about scripture, what exactly do we mean? My lecturer at Vicar School talks about the Canon of Scripture. Are you familiar with the idea that there is an accepted collection of writings which was accepted as worthy of inclusion in The Bible? You are? I thought so. Good.

• Which canon do we accept? The Hebrew canon, the Protestant canon, the Catholic canon, the Orthodox canon or the Coptic canon? Only they are different.

• My lecturer said that each tradition has a different canon. I didn’t want to believe him: after all, you know how academics mess with faith. He was right, though, and him a Revd, too.

• Some traditions have books in their canon that aren’t in some of the others. If I knew which canon was inerrant it would help me because I might have to take instruction about joining another denomination. Do you see my problem?

• If a book is in the inerrant canon, does it stop being inerrant when it is in the non-inerrant canons?

• If a canon, like the Coptic one – very strange indeed – includes “books” not found elsewhere is it still inerrant?

• If that “book” is inerrant, why isn’t it in the other canons?

• If we don’t accept the Apocrypha as inerrant (do we?) then the Catholics and Orthodox have got it badly wrong. Do they know that? If not, can I not be the one to tell them?

• If the Apocrypha is inerrant then according to “Bel and the Dragon”, there must have been dragons in Israel. I thought dragons were mythical. Do I now have to believe in dragons, only I don’t want to make a fool of myself with my non-Christian friends?

• Why are the Christian orderings of scripture different from the Hebrew one? Only it was theirs first and we do accept their books, so are we saying that they didn’t understand their own scriptures and needed us to put things in the right order?

• I only ask this because at Vicar School (and I am only half way through, so bear with me and my stupidity) we have been looking at the book of Daniel. I know Daniel was a real person and a prophet, right? (Look I am doing this thing about taking it literally, so I am a real Conservative Evangelical – it is so important to me that you take me seriously on this.) The Hebrew canon doesn’t place him with the prophets at all, but between Esther and Ezra in a section called the writings. You’d think those ancient Jews would have known how to classify their own people wouldn’t you? Sloppy record keeping if you ask me.

• If the Jews don’t think Daniel was a prophet then everything I have been taught about the meaning of what he is saying must be wrong. (Sorry, for a moment there it sounded as if I had been guilty of interpreting scripture. Please be assured that I was not. I was merely, in good Evangelical style, taking the text as literal truth. No, I didn't say accepting without question what I have been told.)

• So, is he a prophet then or not?

• If he is, how do we know that the Jews got him wrong? Only he was theirs before he was ours.

• Is Daniel still inerrant if Christians have put him in the wrong place and got the wrong end of the stick over what he is saying?

• In Daniel 7.13 there is a reference to “a son of man”. My Bible’s footnotes on that verse send me to Mat 24.30 but now it says “The Son of Man”. That’s not the same, right?

• If it’s not, then Matthew has based a Christology on a misunderstanding. So that can’t be right: it must be Daniel that is wrong. No wait, Daniel is inerrant, so Matthew must be wrong. No, Matthew is inerrant too. Oh God my head hurts!

• My lecturer tells me that Daniel wasn’t even a real person. No, apparently he is a representative figure for all Jewry. Sounds like interpretation to me. We conservative Evangelicals accept the word of God as literal truth so that obviously means my lecturer is talking rubbish. (You should hear him on Genesis: he actually argues that there are different genres of writing. Genres. Genesis has myths in it, religious myths! I ask you.)

• Then he says that in Daniel Nebuchadnezzer represents some guy called Antiochus (!) and the whole book is a code written to encourage Jewish faith at a time of great persecution in the hope that the Hellenic persecutors wouldn’t understand the hidden meaning of the text otherwise the Jews might have been executed for practicing a banned religion. Worst of all THERE WAS NO LION’S DEN. Preposterous. Academics eh? Who needs ‘em?

• Sorry, I am going on a bit, but I have so many other books this destroyer of faith has been going through with us – the whole Old Testament actually – so we could be here for some time.

• O.K. I’ll stop with Daniel.

• BTW. Someone on another blog told me I needn’t worry too much about the Old Testament because large parts of it weren’t written for Christians. Isn’t that a relief? No, I said a relief, not a convenient get-out clause. Only I have been rather guiltily enjoying the forbidden fruit of both pork and seafood and I have been worried about ordination what with me wearing glasses and being tattooed. Now I can hold my head up in front of my gay friends and talk about God’s love without feeling like a hypocrite.

You good folk have done so much to keep me informed and on the straight and narrow about the inerrancy of scripture I would really appreciate your help on these problems before I write another essay.