Progressive Christianity is moving into the 21st century with a freedom to challenge and question tradition and scripture in ways that simultaneously respect the past and look for fresh ways to live into the future. Traditional Christian interpretations of scriptures on a wide variety of issues—hell, gender, sexuality, marriage, community, atonement, social justice, and leadership—are giving way to more nuanced understandings of authorial intent, deeper explorations of the linguistic and cultural realities of the biblical world, and broader definitions of Christian identity. What is the role of Scripture for progressives? How do we define its authority? To what extent is it prescriptive for 21st-century Christians?
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For me, if the Bible and I were friends on Facebook and we were to describe our relationship status, it would most definitely be “It’s complicated.”
I love the Bible and I respect it.
I believe it contains authoritative words.
I believe it contains the Word of God.
But it is not an unqualified authority.
But I don’t accept it as The Word of God.I believe it contains Truth.
But I don’t accept that all it contains is factual or historical.I believe it is a product of inspiration.
But I don’t accept that it is inherently inspired.I believe all of it can be useful in appropriate contexts.
But I don’t accept that all parts have equal value or use.
I believe it is the ancient people’s record of their attempts to understand the Divine. And as such it is very much limited by the cultural and historical contexts in which the words were written and redacted.
I accept the weight of scholarly evidence that suggests strongly that the Bible is very much a human product, that it contains ancient myths and legends appropriated by the Hebrews and altered to fit their theology, that there were political and religious agendas in the compiling and editing of the text, that contradictions and errors exist and cannot be reconciled.
But these problems, and others, don’t bother me because I don’t believe a single mind wrote the words and guided the compiling.
I believe it is not a flawless product, but it is a product of good intentions.
I believe it is a guide to help us grow in our understanding of God and relationship with him.
And I have confidence that God is able to use even our flaws.
And I have confidence that the Living Word of God speaking through the Holy Spirit can and will transcend the static, written text of the Bible.I believe the Bible contains the best description of God, in the accounts of Jesus Christ.
And I have confidence that however differently Christians look upon, read, interpret, and apply the Bible, God’s purposes will not be thwarted.