The Paper Pope

“Barth accepts and welcomes scholarly criticism of the Bible, even when it shows the Scriptures to be full of errors and inconsistencies. He does not consider the Bible infallible, and he deplores orthodox Protestants who make it into “a paper Pope.” Nevertheless, the Bible testifies to God’s Word, which is revealed to man through human speech. The words that the Biblical writers use may not always be the appropriate ones, but they must be accepted as words elected by God. “

~ Witness to an Ancient Truth, TIME magazine (20 April 1962)


This is a quote about theologian Karl Barth I found browsing the internet. If it is true that this is what Barth thought about the Bible, then I find it very interesting. I have been thinking along these lines. I have sometimes wondered how we can call the Bible the infallible word of God when it has been translated and interpreted by men. Men who have their own opinions colouring every page. I have also seen the problem when it is elevated above all else and become a yard stick, rule book, ultimate authority. It’s dangerous.

In my developing ideas on this I’ve thought that the Bible is divinely inspired (as are great inventions, medicine, prophecy, creativity etc) as well as historical documents which point to the revelation of God throughout time. It’s a God-inspired and special record of His interactions with the human race (in Israel mostly…surely He revealed Himself to other people groups throughout history only we have no records of this?). I believe in it’s truth. However I don’t believe every jot and letter of it has come to us in absolute perfection. I believe the ultimate authority is the Word of God (Jesus Himself) which is why the Bible interpreted dogmatically without relationship with Jesus creates horrendous misrepresentations of God, is used to lord it over people, and all the other dastardly things we’ve seen in history done in the name of God, (slavery, racism, colonialism, religious wars, religion).

Your thoughts?


We Will Never Overestimate God’s Grace

Steve McVey: We Will Never Overestimate God’s Grace.

This is a great little video worth the 30 minute listen. Especially the second half. Completely undoes the erroneous view that the crucifixion was a legal act of penal substitution.

Abundant Life

Something I have noticed about Christians (at least the ones I have contact with) is that there is a heavy emphasis on dreams, grandiose futures and success. I’m not against people doing great things with their lives. Nor am I against success. I’m just uncertain that the emphasis is a healthy one. It seems there is a sense that people have to do great things for God. Or that living a simple happy quiet life is to waste it. Or that the salvation of the world depends on believers achieving these great and wonderful dreams.

I’m a dreamer. I have dreams, ones that have been with me for years, but I am rethinking what they are for. What they mean, how important they are and if they were motivated by a wrong understanding of God. You see I’d noticed that in my hope for my dreams to come about, I was missing the life I already have. I was wasting my life actually…the life I already have because I was hankering after things that haven’t happened yet. In fact, they might not ever happen. They are still only dreams after all…theoretical, ideas, hopes. Nothing concrete. But what IS real is an abundant life right here, right now.

Don’t get me wrong. There’s still stuff I hope for. There are still things I want to do before I die. And I believe they are God-inspired. But I’m tired of pushing hard, constantly trying to ‘position’ myself for them to happen. Tired of ‘contending’ for them. Tired of panicking that I’m not doing enough to make them happen. And tired of missing the joy of the life I have right now.

I think some of this emphasis on pursuing greatness comes from a faulty understanding of the Gospel. Some people seem to have an overinflated opinion of their own importance. They seem to think God needs them. I’ve been in a place where I’ve felt the burden of responsibility for the salvation of the world. That if I don’t share the gospel with someone and they die, then it’s all my fault. How small do we think God’s love is? That he would trust the eternal condition of one of his children to me? He loves them more than that! We are invited to participate with Christ, this is true. But He’s not in a blind panic about getting the job done or revealing Himself or His love to people. I want to say Relax people! Participate with Christ, enjoy the richness of life that He has given us! To be quite honest, this reveals the love and light of Christ much more than the red-faced, bulging neck veins, head down, bum up approach. The gospel is good news!

I am hearing people preach the grace of God. They preach that “It is Finished!” but keep working so hard at making things happen. The hype surrounding their passions make it seem a little like they are tying to convince others or themselves that it is true. They talk about the rest of God, but at the same time there is a sense of constant hard work about them. They have no sense of enjoying life, or relishing the abundance they have been blessed with in this life. I can see a perpetual straining, contending and pushing foward. There is a constant seeking for elusive, poorly defined religious carrots. Out of their mouths comes grace, but their lives exemplify fanatical religious effort. They don’t have LIFE!

Thoughts about the Gospel

You see…I was taught was that the truest truth about Gods character is his Holiness. That is, He is moral and perfect and sinless. He is perfect, I’m not denying this, but this premise has made our whole basis for relationship with the Father, a legal one. For example…God is perfect and Holy, and can’t look on or tolerate sin. Adam and Eve sinned..and so mankind is cut off from God and to appease Him, He decided to send his Son Jesus and have Him killed in our place. So, now an angry God is satisfied because of the spilling of innocent blood, and He can now look at me accept me and forgive me. A legal transaction completed.

But there is a problem with this…firstly, God the Father and Jesus Christ, along with the Holy Spirit are one. So if God the Father can’t look on sin, if there is this great separation, how can Jesus Christ come and live among us? Eat and drink and love and touch and be close to sinful humanity? Is the Father not in Christ? And is Jesus not one with the Father? And how can I trust a Father that will sacrifice His Son for another? Where does that leave me? Would he sacrifice me his daughter? Put me through untold suffering to achieve His purposes…and then just raise me from the dead to make it all better?

There is something wrong here. We end up with two opposing views of God. On the one hand a punitive God of wrath against sin who cannot tolerate sin or look at it, and on the other hand a loving, selfless Jesus, standing on our behalf, who loves the writhing mass and mess of humanity, and lives amongst us. If you really think long and hard on this model, the only conclusion you can make is that Jesus came and saved us from the Father! What kind of Father is he? It’s no wonder the world is disgusted with this.

And again, with this “God is holy and can’t look on sin” model…It’s rather perverse that a God of love and forgiveness requires payment for sin. I am a mere human, imperfect and made of dust. And yet, when my children sin and I see they are headed for destruction, I forgive them for free! I don’t require someone else to suffer just to make me feel better. My forgiveness is there immediately and for free…just because I love them. What kind of a Father requires innocent blood? It’s just a little sick don’t you think?

So, what I am learning is that the truest truth about God’s character is love and relationship. The doctrine of the trinity cannot be just brushed over. The Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are one. They have always existed in relationship and this whole planet earth thing for all of time since creation is about God (meaning all three persons) welcoming us into and sharing that relationship with them. The Holiness of God is the perfect love, intimacy, and beauty of that relationship. You can’t separate the Holiness of God from the love of God. It’s all one.

Starting with a relational premise and not a legal one changes everything. Still thinking it all through..more another day.

And so it continues

The past few years have been an undoing of things in my life and it just keeps going. It’s been painful at times, a feeling of terrible insecurity as I’ve questioned and doubted everything I’ve ever believed. I’m speaking mainly about my beliefs in God and Jesus, and what the Bible teaches.

It’s scary to think that I may have wasted my life to this point, pouring it into things I don’t believe any more. Think hundreds and hundreds of hours spent in church diligently scribbling down notebook after notebook full of preaching, serving, joining programs, activities, supporting ministries, and thousands of dollars. But worse even than that: major decisions, life changing decisions that may have been a completely wrong headed thing to do. All the while being convinced that it was good. Like living away from family…leaving my parents and my in-laws completely distant from us and their grandchildren. And even worse, having my children grow up not knowing what it is like to have grandparents, cousins, aunts or uncles. And for what? I still battle despair and depression if I look back at the years past. The sheer waste of it. I was such an optimistic person, had such hopes, and made every decision carefully….it’s just that my whole basis for making decisions was built on a faulty understanding of God, the world and my place in it.

And while it has been quite a yucky experience, I have to say that a raw, angry and honest questioning of belief has been very healthy for me.

I have sworn (and still do) and raged about the crap that has been preached to me for years and that I believed without question. I’m still sometimes feel angry at the arrogance of preachers who teach and preach with such confidence ┬ábut can’t answer with any intellectual integrity questions put to them. It’s a sad state of affairs really…that the modern church has people preaching from a position of authority (more on that another day) to people who unquestioningly listen…when in fact their theology only is a mish mash of books they have read, often by other misinformed high profile preachers. There has been no systematic study of theology. After all, intellectuality is played down in the circles I’ve been in. The preferred method for determining truth seems to be following feelings of ease or unease in the spirit at worse, to proof texting already established dogmas at best. Neither is sound.

And here I am learning from conservative old men sitting in dusty ancient universities, and discovering that the intellectual world that the Pentecostal movement has spurned is holding veritable treasures about God and humanity and in fact the whole cosmos, while the modern church is preaching confused and often times harmful theology, and working itself in to a frenzy of activity in order to ‘save’ the world. Oh dear.

But while I am still angry about it at times, there is no point me sitting around getting eaten up by this stuff. What’s more, I am completely and thoroughly excited about rebuilding my theology from the ground up. Or should I say from the Trinity outwards. I have never been so touched by how good God actually is.

I’m hoping to be able to actually share what I’m learning here, and would welcome any comments or discussion around it. I’m no theologian, and I’m not saying I understand it all…just that I’m on a discovery of God in a completely new way…

(Written 17/5/2011)

Welcome to Thinky Think

I’m just a nobody. I’m learning stuff. Stuff about theology, and I want a place to think it through. I process and think through writing. So this shall be where I think my theological thinks.

Comments and discussions most welcome. Let’s be friends ok?