Monday, August 14, 2006

The Gospel Debate (1) Rightly Dividing Figs

Here's the comical way we began. What are some questions or comments you would have so far? We invite your response. In a few days John will respond.

Check out II Kings 20:1-7.

Perhaps we need to alert the R&D dept. of some drug company. There may be something to this fig thing!

i love figs---i'm glad it seems to be the fruit of choice in the Bible. see Hab. 3:17-19

But now you drew me in----do you believe this story actually happened? do you believe this happened literally? yeah or nay?

Hey, unless there's a good reason to doubt it, I have no trouble accepting it's veracity. I like the approach of John Bright, the biblical historian who wrote A History of accept the biblical narrative as archeological evidence, and put it alongside of other evidence to come to conclusions about what occurred.
Of course, you understand that it doesn't really matter to me whether it actually happened or not...what's important here is that God mercifully heals, that God's healing can be in, with and through natural or medical remedies, and that for "his own sake" and "his servant David's sake," he chooses to save his people--and not because of anything people choose to do!

agreed----that would be the over-arching emphasis---a healing God who loves to display his glory in that way.

Here's a question that rings in my ears though on reflection of some of the things you said about the authority of Scripture. You seem very uncomfortable with saying definitively whether or not there are such things as "hell" "heaven" (or paradise--to quote Jesus), or calling acts of the sin nature as "sins"---things that the Bible seems so clear on.

Here's my deal. I realize that the Bible needs to be interpreted in it's context---but that it is also "God breathed (2 Tim. 3:16)." You seem to read the Bible with the idea that you can't trust it. Before you say anything hard and fast about a doctrine--you seem compelled to qualify it with statements like "'s a 2000 year old document...written to a specific people that we really don't know that much about...written by a person with an intended message we can't say for sure about." I know that might seem charicature--but I know you to be too gracious to be upset by that. Tell me if I'm wrong in this.

You mentioned yesterday you don't interpret Scripture by Scripture---how do you interpret Scripture? And furthermore---why do you have such a hard time believing the Bible means what it says it means? What is inspired and what is not inspired? What can we trust, and what can we not trust? For example, if the Holy Spirit inspires men "moved by the Holy Spirit" to write that Christ was "born of a virgin" and then entrusts the meaning behind that with the Apostles--how can it "ultimately not matter?" so long as you affirm Christ's divinity? It seems to me that you approach the Bible looking for the broadest possible stroke.

If you believe that God became a human embryo and floated in amniotic fluid, was 100% God and 100% Man in the incarnation, was resurrected from the dead----why do you feel like this God has left us with an inaccurate and untrustworthy document--a document we are far too removed from to say anything definitive on?

It was good to hear your thoughts on these things--and you are a good listener---something I'm sure your wife and children appreciate. Again, these questions are far removed from "figs".....


justin said...

Of course it matters whether something the Bible says actually happened. If the Bible says something happened that didn't happen, then why affirm it at all?

Sorry for being simple and basic. However, the buck stops here for me. If we cannot agree that the Bible is reliable, then everything else is up for debate.

Rob Tombrella said...

good point Justin, John says...

"it doesn't really matter to me whether it actually happened or not...what's important here is that God mercifully heals."

Based on what? What do you base the promise that God mercifully heals if the event didn't actually happen?

Chris said...

Conclusions must be based on truth, right? If you based something on a half-truth, then it is just an educated guess.

How would someone decide what parts of the Bible to believe and what not to believe?

Chris said...

I like Fig Newtons. Do you think Fig Newtons would have the same healing potential?


Palmernate said...

Hmmm yes read the story of Billy Graham. He struggled for years with this question.

Finally in like 1948 he just prayed and said ok God I'm gonna take your Word as your Word by faith and see what happens. And well looked what happened.

Rob Tombrella said...

I didn't know Billy struggled with figs.

Interesting point Napalm. Since any Scripture requires faith--how do we choose what is to be taken as "actual" and not?

Palmernate said...

Actually his beef was with figgy pudding!

John said...

Fig Newtons have figs in them, so if it’s figs that do the job, then I’d say the Newtons would be reliable. I wonder if Oreos would work? I’m not crazy about Fig Newtons, but I like Oreos!

Chris, I hate to disagree—well, not really; I can actually enjoy being a disagreeable fellow: conclusions need not be based on an “educated guess”..they can be based on something called FAITH…faith in a very real gracious, healing God who’s existence I’ve come to believe in, first through the witness of other believers, and then through my own experience.

As for determining what parts of the Bible to “believe” and what parts “not to believe,” it sounds like you have a perception of truth that equates it with fact. Most people I know don’t consistently apply this standard to truth, though—even Biblical fundamentalists. For instance, did the events in the story of the prodigal son actually occur? Did they have to occur to be true? No…this is an illustration, a fascinating story told to raise important issues to bring the hearers into a new, dynamic place of relationship with God and with neighbor. I can believe in the God behind the story (who is calling me into a new life in Christ) without believing in the factual veracity of the story itself.

justin said...

John, good thoughts. However, there is a HUGE difference between an event that the Bible portrays as actual and an event that the Bible portrays as simply a story with a point. If the Bible says something happened that really didn't happen, then it lies and cannot be trusted. However, a parable is supposed to be interpreted as a parable, not a historical event.

Joshua Jordan said...


Great thoughts so far. John, I am with you, I will take Oreo's over Fig Newton's any day. I was wondering if Oreo's do have healing power if that makes Double Stuff Oreo's a double portoin of blessing. What do you guys think?

As far as the conversation about Scripture is concerned I wanted to share a qoute I read about thirty minutes before I read the comments on this blog.

Graeme Goldsworthy a theologian from "Down Under" said this about our view of Scripture.
"One does not take a pocket flashlight and shine it on the sun to see if the sun is real! The truth of God's word cannot be subject to the puny light of man's self-centered reason. God's word created what is and must interpret what is."

The question I would want to ask you John is whether you think the Bible is God addressing man or is it man talking about their perceptions of God? The answer to this question greatly effects how we approach Scripture.

John said...

My answer would be both, Joshua. God addressing people through the very genuine perceptions of God that were expressed by some people of faith. I guess it’s a matter of the ‘how’ of inspiration. Did God dictate the words of the Bible audibly or psychically to those who wrote Scripture? Or is God making use of the faith confessions offered by specific people in specific circumstances—people who are as fallible as I am but who God nevertheless chooses to use as vehicles of revelation. As you can guess, my answer would be the latter. And yes, it drastically affects the way I view and handle Scripture.

I agree, our human limitations are acute. But it’s exactly because of this that we are all compelled to depend on interpretation, a product (partially) of reason. One day we will all know as we’ve been known, but now we see as through a glass dimly. I’d say our ability to reason is just as much a part of the means God uses to reveal himself as it is an obstacle that interferes with revelation.

Lutheran Christians have a long heritage of combining reason with faith, making use of a healthy critical suspicion of peoples’ truth claims and interpretations of Scripture—a sort of “theological crap detector” if you will. It was through this instrument, embodied in the likes of Martin Luther, that I believe the Spirit worked to ignite the 16th century Reformation. And still works today.

Don’t know about any of you, but I can testify that I have been personally and even doubly blessed by double stuffed Oreos.

Jeremy said...

Personally I am a great lover of cookies but oreos get stuck in my teeth. I am not a big fan of figs but strawberry newtons are off the hook. John, I really appreciate your well-thought answers and positions. John I want to ask a question. Is there any difference in your mind between the Bible and other books? Let's compare it to Chicken Noodle Soup for the Soul. Do you believe that the Bible is any more or less inspired by God that book. Or the Koran. Or the Book of Morman. Tell me what you think.

John said...

In my mind, the Bible has a very special place above other literature, because it’s “the cradle of Christ”—the repository of some of the earliest written witness to the Christ event and its implications, along with other writings that point us toward and prepare us for the Christ event. The New Testament writers interpreted their experience of Jesus through the lense of the Hebrew Scriptures, and so those scriptures have a special place and function when it comes to making sense of their testimony. The main value of the Scriptures as we have them is as a resource for preaching the gospel; this in turn can help lead us to a faith encounter with the Living Word that is the crucified and Risen Christ.

Having said all of that, I am conscious that the canon of scripture we now have was closed at the 16th century council of Trent in response to perceived extremes of the reformation. Was the council’s determination valid? Should no other writings be considered God-breathed Scripture? I wouldn’t answer either of these affirmatively, but I don’t know who would have the authority to make the call on what writings should be accepted into the canon. I also know that Luther (writing before Trent), referred to James as an “epistle of straw” because it was, in his estimation, works-oriented and therefore subversive to the gospel. He also had a hard time finding anything evangelical (i.e. good news proclaiming) in the book of Revelation. This doesn’t lead me to reject either book…using the tools of contemporary literary analysis, I can see much that is evangelical in Revelation, and at one time or another the words of James have certainly been a way for God to speak to me. Of course, at times, so has Green Eggs and Ham! But that’s just me—God likes to play hide and seek with me; he keeps popping up all over the place. I love Luther’s delightful quote about how Christ can be truly present in the bread and wine (as in “this is my body…this is my blood”). He said, “Christ is in my cabbage soup.”

So, Chicken soup or cabbage soup, Christ is all in all. But because so many have found him in and through the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures, I think they deserve our highest value when it comes to literature.

Jeremy said...


I imagine that you can understand why some people like myself would have to believe in the infallibility of scripture. We have made the faith presupposition that we believe the Bible to be inerrant and is the final authority of God revelation to man. All of our beliefs and worldview is based on that belief that we have accepted by faith. Here is my question: What is the presupposition that your beliefs are based on? It seems based on some of your answers it would be experiencial knowledge and the wise counsel of friends but I wanted to find out directly from you. Once again, thank you for your well-considered and thoughtful responses.