The Bible: Inspired, not dictated

“An exaggerated or inaccurate view of scripture is not a high view of scripture. It is just a wrong view of scripture,” megachurch pastor Adam Hamilton.

Jonathan Merritt of Religion News Service recently interviewed Hamilton about his new book “Making sense of the Bible: Rediscovering the power of scripture today,” which has Biblical literalists in a frenzy. I have followed Hamilton, who pastors a church in suburban Kansas City. I’ve been to services there and have watched online since moving away from KC. You can even watch Church of the Resurrection services on its Roku channel.

Hamilton is not a theological liberal. He is not a person who dismisses the claims Christ made of being God. Hamilton is not wishy-washy in his commitment to discipleship, nor does he water down the Gospel. He is completely orthodox, but he understands the Bible is not to be read as a constitution or some other type of legal document. It was not dictated by God, so the humanity of the authors is reflected in their written work. Here’s another quote from Hamilton:

“In 2 Timothy 3:16 Paul writes, “All Scripture is inspired by God…” Christians often assume they know what this means, but Paul seems to have created the word “inspired.” It does not appear in the Greek language before this and is used nowhere else in the Bible. It literally means “God-breathed” but Paul doesn’t go on to explain precisely what he means. It is a metaphor, and metaphors are not precise. Push them too far and they break down. When I think of inspired, I think of God-influenced. This leaves open a variety of ways in which the biblical authors were influenced by God.”

Biblical literalists read the entirety of scripture as though it were dictated by God – which is what Muslims believe about the Koran. The Bible is not God-incarnate; Christ is. Christ is the Word of God and the Bible is the inspired word of God, but this doesn’t give us excuse to hide narrow-minded bigotry, for example, behind a prideful insistence that we are right, just because we feel justified to prop that pride up with Biblical passages. Refusing to do so, doesn’t make one a liberal, either.

Hamilton points out there are many passages through the Old Testament that portray the God of the Bible as being violent and roughly 200 verses condoning slavery. There was a time when Americans who believed in slavery used these verses to excuse their immorality, but that eventually changed as our understanding of how to interpret the Bible grew.

It’s time for another growth spurt.

As Hamilton also points out, the Biblical prohibitions against committed same-sex intimacy is couched in the contexts of gang rape and pagan temple rites. This is not the context in which we address same-sex intimacy today. So, at the very least, this displays a popular use of scripture that proves many Christians treat the Bible as though it were a constitution as they use it to make their own points when making arguments, rather than engaging an honest search for Truth. This doesn’t necessarily change what God has to say about homosexuality, at the end of the day, but it does say something about how many Christians handle the scripture.

You can read the full interview here:


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