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Archive for March, 2014

In “Creation and Fall,” Bonhoeffer’s first book devoted directly toward the Bible (in this case, Genesis), he makes the point that “The theory of verbal inspiration will not do.” He saw Scripture as the words of men through whom God spoke and continues to speak today. The power and trustworthiness of the Bible lies not in its words but in the word, God’s word, which lies behind them. 

The bond between us and God is a covenant but not one of letters but of Spirit, for “the letter kills but the Spirit gives life” (2 Cor 3:6). Fundamentalists seem unable to understand this. They find a certain security in thinking that we have the exact Word of God in the Bible, though nearly everyone in the world reads not the actual words but translations of those words. We do not have the “original autographs” the first copies of each of the books in the Bible so even if we’re reading the best Greek and Hebrew editions (a discipline I highly recommend!) we’re still not reading the exact words of the originals. Maybe those originals were literally inspired but that is now irrelevant, since we simply do not have them.

Our faith is not in the Bible itself but in the living God who still reveals himself to us through Scripture. That does not mean the Bible is merely the word of humans and can be treated as if it were no different than any other ancient document. It is an extraordinary book unlike any other  Can we find any three chapters in any literature anywhere in the world which match the insight into human nature found in Genesis 1-3?

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A recent article in The Atlantic*points out that, while atheism is getting lots of press coverage these days and religious affiliation is declining in the West, belief in God is still by far the dominant intellectual position in all countries except China. Even in the younger group (ages 18-33), 86 per cent say they believe in God.

It doesn’t help the atheist’s argument, of course, that they are so rude. The attitude displayed by such popular atheists as Richard Dawkins or the late Christopher Hitchens is sheer snobbery. They openly believe that theirs is the only rational position and that therefore anyone who disagrees is irrational and, they seem to believe, stupid. This is as narrowminded and provincial as any Fundamentalist can get. The intellectual “giants” among the atheists turn out to be very small-minded indeed.

One atheist, on finding faith awakening in him through his contact with poor people, commented that “Perhaps atheism is an intellectual luxury for the wealthy.” (Quoted in Christian Century, 22 Jan 2014, from an article in the Guardian by Chris Arnade.)

Dietrich Bonhoeffer called us to learn to a whole new, mature sense of what it means to live faithfully and fully human. “Before God, and with God, we live without God.” Like the arrogant atheists, he wants to live “without” God, that is, without a divine nanny who hovers over us to attend to our every little whim. We are to grow into mature human beings, by which Bonhoeffer means persons who are responsible, answerable for ourselves. Unlike the atheists, however, Bonhoeffer knows to whom we are responsible and answerable. We live before God and with God. No other way of living makes sense.

The Atlantic article quotes Sartre on the essence of existentialism:

“Man is free; but his freedom does not look like the glorious liberty of the Enlightenment; it is no longer the gift of God. Once again, man stands alone in the universe, responsible for his condition, likely to remain in a lowly state, but free to reach above the stars.”

How very sad, how deeply lonely is the one who feels responsible without having Anyone to whom we may respond. . .

* Available online at http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2014/03/the-intellectual-snobbery-of-conspicuous-atheism/284406/

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