Experiencing God and believing the Bible

James Spinti makes an interesting point, in his musings at the end of his review of  The Bible Among the Myths by John Oswalt. James writes about how he approaches the historicity of the biblical text, probably thinking mostly of the Old Testament:

I would be classified as a “maximalist” by most. The reason I would be a “maximalist” is that I have seen and experienced God breaking in on my life and the lives of others. Once you have experienced that, the stories in the Bible are not so hard to believe. If you read the archaeological reports and the biblical text with a “hermeneutic of sympathy” rather than a “hermeneutic of suspicion,” you can see that it is possible for the text to be correct.

Don’t misunderstand what I just wrote! I am not saying that archaeology “proves” the Bible! I don’t think that archaeology can “prove” anything. Archaeology can be used to interpret what we see, and what we see depends on our theological paradigm. If you have a paradigm of non-divine intervention, you will come to a radically different conclusion than one that allows divine intervention.

One view is not more scholarly than the other! To believe in a God who can—and does—intervene in human affairs is not naïve and unlearned; it is taking the given data and analyzing them just as carefully as possible. As Sherlock Holmes used to say, if you look at the data and you have dismissed every other possibility, the remaining one must be true—however illogical it seems!

I would echo all of this. I too “have seen and experienced God breaking in on my life and the lives of others”. So I too have no trouble believing the stories in the Bible, at least from Genesis 12 onwards. That doesn’t mean that archaeology proves the Bible. It does mean that I trust the biblical text unless archaeology disproves it – and I don’t think it ever has done, although it has prompted some reinterpretation.

Very often when “minimalists” claim that archaeology disproves the Bible they are arguing from silence. For example, they hadn’t found the ruins of Jerusalem from the time of David and Solomon, so they argued that it never existed. But the real reason those ruins hadn’t been found was that no one had looked for them in the expected place, because this place was under an Arab village. In recent years, controversially, Israeli archaeologists have been looking there, and guess what they have found: ruins of a significant city provisionally dated to the time of David and Solomon! But have those “minimalists” eaten their words?

Of course there are also those whose argument that the Bible is inaccurate is basically that miracles and predictive prophecy cannot happen, and so stories with these elements cannot be true. I can understand that argument as it follows logically from that world view. But from what I have seen and experienced I know that that world view is inadequate, that God can do what appear to us as miracles and can reveal what will happen in the future. So I have no trouble believing these stories.

Yes, indeed the genuinely Christian approach to the biblical text is not the scholarly “hermeneutic of suspicion”, meaning an assumption (usually applied to the Bible far more than to other ancient literature) that the text is unreliable unless it can be proved right, but a “hermeneutic of sympathy”, an expectation that the text is right unless proved wrong.

0 thoughts on “Experiencing God and believing the Bible

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Gentle Wisdom» Blog Archive » Experiencing God and believing the Bible -- Topsy.com

  2. Yet another post living up to your site name. Like you I have no problem with long range predictive prophecy and miracles. They seem totally consistent with the God who speaks throughout Scrioture – and that is before I consider my personal and witnessed encounters.

    And when, as sometimes I do, I refelct on Gensis 1-3, I try to remember that in this, and other debates and issues, the concept of an independent unbiased view is as mythical as some say Scripture is. We all bring presuppositions to the table; and wear our own glasses (literally in my case). Mine are different to those of our local (and strident) humanist association.

    So I too have a hermeneutic of sympathy.

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