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The “Problems” in Scripture

• Greg Boyd

Many find themselves struggling with their faith when they are honest about imperfections that they find in the Bible. This sermon helps us understand the nature of these imperfections and offers a way to reframe the way the Bible works as God’s inspired book.

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All Scripture is “inspired by God” which literally means “God-breathed.”  This has been the bedrock conviction of the church throughout history. But faith in Scripture is falling on hard times and it is one of the main reasons people give up on the faith. This is understandable, as Greg shares his own journey of questioning his faith when he saw some of the major problems that are part of the Bible.

This leads to the honest question: How can this be a God-breathed book when it contains so much obvious human imperfections?

Greg answers this question by pointing us back to the center of our faith, Jesus Christ. There are very compelling historical and philosophical reasons for believing the four Gospels give us a generally reliable portrait of the historical Jesus. Other aspects of the Bible may contain historical challenges, but not the Gospels. The reasons for believing in Jesus do not depend on believing the Bible is divinely inspired. The foundation of our faith and our identity should not be in a book, but in Jesus Christ. We don’t need the Bible to be divinely inspired, let alone “inerrant,” to believe in Jesus. Once we believe that the historical Jesus really was the Son of God, we can trust the fact that Jesus believed the Old Testament was inspired by God.  On Jesus’ authority we can take it that the Bible is God’s inspired word. This means that I must take all Scripture seriously even if there are problems that we find in specific passages.

How then do we address the problems? First, the “problems” are only “problems” if you assume that a divinely inspired book must meet our standards of “perfection.” The assumption is that, since God is perfect, any book that God breathes must be perfect, “inerrant.”  But this assumes that we actually know what a perfect book should look like. Instead of making such assumptions, we should return to the center of Jesus. On the cross, God breathes the full revelation of himself by accommodating our sin, our mistakes, our imperfections. If God breathes the full revelation of himself through one who bore all the sin, mistakes, and imperfections of the world, why would anyone conclude that God can only “breath” revelations of himself in the Bible through writers that have no sin, no mistakes, and no imperfections? Since God breathed his fullest revelation through the one who bore all the sin and imperfections of the world, and since Jesus tells us that all Scripture is ultimately inspired to bear witness to him, shouldn’t we expect that Scripture also will be filled with imperfection?

The imperfections we find throughout the Bible are no more “problems” than is the sin and imperfection that Jesus bore on Calvary. Therefore, whenever we come upon material that is not consistent with God’s revelation in the crucified Christ, look through the text to see God stooping do to with his ancient people what he did on Calvary, graciously stooping to enter into solidarity with where people are at. In this way, you can see God has always been the God who is revealed on Calvary, the God who is able to breath revelations of himself through sinful and imperfect people.

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Topics: Defense of Christian Faith, Discipleship

Sermon Series: Unraveling Truth

Downloads & Resources

Audio File
Study guide
Group Study Guide
The MuseCast: April 18

Focus Scripture:

  • 2 Timothy 3:16-17

    All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that the person of God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.

For Further Reading:

Lord or Legend? by Greg Boyd & Paul Eddy
The Jesus Legend by Paul Eddy & Greg Boyd
Letters from a Skeptic by Greg Boyd & Edward Boyd
The Bible Unwrapped by Meghan L. Good
The IVP Bible Background Commentary (Old Testament) by John H. Walton, Victor H. Matthews, Mark W. Chavalas
The IVP Bible Background Commentary (New Testament) by Craig S. Keener

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6 thoughts on “The “Problems” in Scripture

  1. Sarah Houpt says:

    How often should we read the Bible? How little is too little, and how much is too much?

    1. Emily says:

      Hi Sarah, here is a response from Greg —Emily from Communications

      Hi Sarah, I’m sorry, but I have no definitive answer to this question. It’s the kind of thing where you just need to follow the leading of the Spirit as best you can.

      But its not just a question of “how much?” Perhaps a more important question is, “How Deeply”? When you read the Bible, however much or little you do this, try to open your spirit to what God wants to say to you.

      Bless you
      And your Bible-reading. Greg

  2. Matthew says:

    Hello Greg and Emily!

    Greg mentioned that he spoke to a young couple living together about the sin of fornication, but then soon after admitted there are portions of Scripture which are difficult to interpret, which are argued about between different Christian traditions and tribes, etc. Well … which is it? If there are portions of Scripture that are tough nuts to crack, then why the talk about fornication to a young couple living together like this is all cement in the pavement, rock solid biblical truth?

    In recent years, I have learned to try and read the Bible looking for Jesus Christ in all its pages … kind of an Emmaus Road hermenuetic if you will. As such, I have basically left behind the sticky moral glue that is often found in Paul´s epistles as well as in the Hebrew Bible. I´m not trying to avoid the morality pieces of the Christian puzzle, but as I try to read Scripture in this new way the morality thorns (especially in Paul´s writings) don´t poke me the way they once did. You know … back in the day when we proof-texted to death people (both within the Body of Christ and without) about this moral failing or that one; for this sin or that one. Our finger pointing (or family admonishing?) was, of course, based on our interpretation of the texts we were firing off! We were oh´so Pauline, and oh´so little Gospel(s).

    That said, even all these years later I still believe that there is a moral fabric or sorts making up the uniform of our shared faith, but just exactly what that is and how we go about discerning it biblically … well … I´m not really sure anymore. It´s become much more complicated than it once was and your words (in the body of this problems with Scripture teaching) have only more firmly reminded me of this truth.

    Where do we go now? Tell them about the sin of fornication because they are living together, but be fully welcoming and accepting of the LGBTQ+ community? Tell women that they can preach, but then ask them to submit to their husbands?

    Frankly … I´m lost. 🙁

    1. Emily says:

      Hi back Matthew!
      Here is Greg’s response.
      —Emily from Communications 🙂

      Hi Matthew,
      Some matters are disputable in Scripture, and some are not.
      There are legitimate hermeneutical disputes over the passages that have traditionally been interpreted as ruling out the condoning of LGBTQ unions.
      I know of no similar disputes about the meaning of the various passages (taught throughout Scripture) denouncing sex before or outside of the covenant of marriage.

      We really shouldn’t conclude a teaching is “unclear” just because it conflicts with our culture’s sentiments.
      Hope that helps!
      Bless you,

  3. Matthew says:

    Thanks so much Greg. I have a lot of work to do when it comes to understanding Christian morals and ethics, especially in Paul´s writings.

  4. Matthew says:

    Thanks too Emily!!

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