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Reviews Theology

Review: Can I Really Trust the Bible?

Barry Cooper. Can I really trust the Bible? And other questions about Scripture, truth and how God speaks. UK: The GoodBook Company, 2014. $7.01 (Amazon). 81 pages.

Christian or not, perhaps you have even asked it yourself. “Can I really trust this old book?” The Bible is the most loved and hated and read and critiqued book in the history of the world. It makes some drastic–almost unbelievable–claims. If nothing else, it’s worth reading just to know those claims. But sooner or later, we are confronted with that nagging question.

Barry Cooper, an author and speaker from London, has written a short book answering that question and a few others about the most significant book in human history. It’s basic yet intellectually stimulating; serious yet witty. It will challenge your assumptions and shatter some categories about what the Bible is and is not.

Cooper lays out his book in five chapters. The first two answer one question, “Does the Bible claim to be God’s word?” in two different ways. First, he addresses what the Bible says about itself. In chapter two, he takes on the importance of why we write things down and record them in books. In chapters three and four, he answers the question, “Does the Bible seem to be God’s word?” by addressing how the Bible came to be, issues of translation, and apparent inconsistencies or contradictions in our Bibles today. Finally, in chapter five, Cooper answers the question, “Does the Bible prove to be God’s word?” Here, he aims at exposing the reader to the sweetness of God’s word–that experientially it is glorious and shows itself powerful and true.

To keep this review to a reasonable length (that is shorter than this short book!) let me point out three important issues Cooper emphasizes which you might find helpful:

  • Cooper emphasizes the unity of what is written down. Cooper is right to say that the Scriptures are a diverse unity. Written from many perspectives, across centuries, and throughout the world, its single, unified theme is that God is redeeming a people for himself which culminates in Jesus Christ. “[The Bible is] like flicking between 66 different [radio] stations and finding that each is advancing the same story, a grand symphonic drama that grows in beauty as it develops” (38).
  • Cooper emphasizes the importance of writing things down. We write down what is importance to us. Wouldn’t it make sense if God were going to reveal himself he would have it recorded in writing? The problem is that many people think the writers of the New Testament were crazy, primitive, unenlightened religious freaks who concocted stories. But that hardly seems plausible. Cooper comments, “What becomes very clear as we read the New Testament is that the Bible documents aren’t the wild-eyed delusions of lone religious fruitcakes who’ve spent way too much time in a cave. Many of the remarkable events described in the Bible are historical incidents which had multiple eyewitnesses; hundreds, even thousands of eyewitnesses” (40). God used men to write things down, and for our benefit no less.
  • Cooper emphasizes the ramifications of writing things down. The Bible is a brutally honest book. No one in this world would benefit financially or socially or professionally from writing down such self-deprecating things. As Cooper states, “The Gospels are too counterproductive to be legends. If the early church wanted to fabricate stories about Jesus that would make them and their writings more credible, why include so many details that seem to undermine such an aim? For example…why make Peter…appear so cowardly–unless it was what actually happened?” (47). Cooper also points out that if the biblical authors’ writings were false, they could have easily been disproved by any one of the many eyewitnesses who were alive when their writings circulated (65).

In the end, the most important part of Cooper’s book is that, as the final chapter explains, there must be a personal encounter with the God of the Bible and then we must put the Bible into action. Only then we will trust it. He writes, “When you see the sun, you know it’s bright. When you taste honey, you know it’s sweet. When you see Jesus Christ in Scripture, you know he is Lord. And when you put God’s word into practice, you know it’s for real” (80).

If you’re a Christian and wrestling with the reliability of the Bible, read this book. If you know someone who’s processing these kinds of issues, give it to them as a gift (it’s only $7). And if you’re not a Christian and have been bashing the Bible for months or years, give it an honest, open-minded read (after all, you are probably open-minded about a lot of other things, right?). If I still haven’t convinced you, watch the promo video of the book below to whet your appetite.

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Categories
Theology

John Shore: You Can’t Know If Hell is Real

John Shore has been writing a little bit about hell lately. He has written a response (reaction?) to a promo video by Francis Chan about his new book Erasing Hell.  Hmmm, a quick, public response to a promo-video about a book about hell. Sound familiar? (Funny how people criticize others for doing the same thing, but when the ball is in their court…)

In another article on his personal blog, Shore writes about if hell is real. In typical liberal fashion, he avoids the answer and claims the Bible does as well:

Asking whether or not hell is real is like asking your teammates in a football huddle during a game whether or not they think it’s possible, from your guys’ current position on the field, to sink a three-point basket.

Wrong question.

Wrong game.

Missing the point.

Categories
Theology

Rob Bell interviewed by Martin Bashir

Sorry for my absence lately.  Things have been busy around here!  Check out this interview of Rob Bell by Martin Bashir on MSNBC. I don’t know if Bashir is a Christian, but he lays it on thick–and good. I’ve really never seen Bell so uncomfortable before. Ever.

Categories
Life

Welch’s or Wine?

I did this brief (very brief) word study for a coworker of Carly’s who had some questions about wine in the Bible. This is by no means anywhere close to exhaustive. It is merely an overview, and I’m posting it here to open up conversation. I’d love to hear your thoughts, however, with such a touchy topic as alcohol, please be gracious by not forcing your personal liberties or legalisms onto other people.

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Wine: Most popular Greek word in the NT is oinos (pronounced “oy-noss”). This is the word used for the wine that Jesus made during his first miracle at the Cana wedding when he turned water into oinos.

There are at least three reasons to believe that oinos is similar to our alcoholic wine today:

  1. This is the word used in Ephesians 5:18 when Paul says, “Do not be drunk with oinos but be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Being “drunk” and being “filled” are contrasted here. Both imply intoxication and being controlled by a substance outside of oneself. On the one hand, one (i.e. drunkenness) is negative and sinful. The other (i.e. filled with the Holy Spirit) is positive and holy. So Paul does not say that oinos is bad, but that being controlled by it is (compare 1 Tim. 4:1-5, especially verses 4-5).
  2. This is the word used in Romans 14:21 when Paul says that wine should not be a stumbling block to a brother. If oinos was merely grape juice or some other processed beverage, why would it be considered a possible stumbling block to a Christian? The short answer is that it wouldn’t. No one gets controlled by grape juice (well, maybe in some very bizarre circumstances!). Because of the temptation to be physically controlled by something other than the Spirit, Paul says it would be best for the mature believer to abstain instead of forcing the weaker brother he is friends with to compromise convictions and practices.
  3. Finally, Vine’s Dictionary of New Testament Words points out that Matt. 9:17, Mark 2:22, and Luke 5:37 imply that this oinos is fermented. In these passages, Jesus is speaking of putting new wine into old skins–he is giving an analogy of bringing the New Covenant to Jews who are still married to the Old Covenant. New grape juice would not cause old animal skins used for a canteen to burst, but a freshly fermented, alcoholic beverage certainly would.

The other uses of the word oinos in the NT give us no reason to believe that this drink is not a processed, fermented, alcoholic drink. It probably was not be as strong as the wine or other drinks we have today, of course. It even took wedding guests awhile to get drunk during the week-long celebration.  That’s why at weddings (like in Cana, see John 2:1-11) they used the good wine first and were content to dish out the cheap, boxed Franzia wine toward the end of the week. Whatever the alcoholic content of wine in the Bible, however, we do know for certain they weren’t drinking Welch’s.