25 June 2009

Using the Bible to diss the Bible dodge (NEXT! #15)

by Dan Phillips

Challenge: We've got to go by the Spirit, not the literal Bible; after all, "the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life."

Response: Yep, that's what the Bible says. Literally.

(Proverbs 21:22)

Dan Phillips's signature


donsands said...

And that's that.

The Holy Bible is such a treasure from the Lord given to us, and yet it had lost it's preciousness to many professing Christians. Sad.

Brian Franklin said...

That reminds me of another such conversation I had with a friend in college:

Challenge: "I don't need to go to church or to read any kind of Christian books. Even the Bible says, "you have no need that anyone should teach you." [1 John 2:27]

Response: But wasn't the apostle John teaching that to his readers?...

DJP said...

Yep, Brian. I've often thought (and said) that, if that verse meant what it's used to mean, the Bible would be a much, MUCH shorter book.

Chad V. said...
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Chad V. said...
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Chad V. said...

Oops, misapplied my comment. I'll save it for another topic.

Gary said...

Do people actually try to use that dodge?

DJP said...

Oh, absolutely. For decades. Liberals and charismatics particularly, that I've heard.

James Joyce said...


Bob Edwards said...

DJP's Challenger: Harrrumph!!

Me: Good one DJP

Chad V. said...

One might ask them, "Where did you find out about the Spirit?"

Gary said...

Sheesh. I can see how liberals would like it, but I grew up in a charismatic church and never knew anyone quite that brazen.

Michelle said...

One might also ask, "Would that be the same Spirit who breathed out all the Bible and said all of it is profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness? (2 Tim. 3:16)?”

" ... men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” 2 Peter 1:21b

Scot said...

Geez Dan, do you read through Proverbs every day to this kind of wisdom? I started at this for 10 minutes before I finally got it.

I don't say that as an insult. I just imagine you sitting at your computer, cranking NEXT's, posts, and Hither and Thithers in like 10 minuts at 4 AM. Meanwhile, you have smoke coming off the keyboard while your computer is struggling to keep up with your furious typing.

This is good stuff.

Herding Grasshoppers said...

4:32 AM... do you sleep?

Love that dig at their own words. Literally.

It also brings to mind, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God..."

Kind of hard to separate the two, don'tcha think?

DJP said...

Thanks, both.

Yes, I get up very early; and yes, I read Proverbs every day.

Yeah, this one is meant to be subtle. Well, most of them are. Here's the note I made to append to this after there'd been some discussion:

This one is particularly witty and subtle (IOW not entirely original with me). So I need to open it up a bit.

Odds are anyone thick enough to make the first statement will totally miss your point. So I'd say, make this response, raise an eyebrow, then pause. If (as I'd expect) your buddy just charges on, say "Whoa. Did you get what you just did? You quoted and applied a Bible verse literally to say that we shouldn't quote and apply Bible verses literally. Either that Bible verse makes no sense, or what you just said makes no sense. Do you think it's possible you misunderstood that verse? And the role of the Bible?"

Jugulum said...


Hmm... I was going to say, "It would be good to add to the response, in order to directs people toward what 2 Cor. 3:6 does mean."

Your last comment does point toward that question, though not toward the answer.

(Incidentally, what do you think the meaning is? Rom. 7:6-8:11?)

CGrim said...

Heh. This is kinda like the Liars Paradox, with a twist.

If they don't think the Bible is authoritative, they should probably not quote from it to make their point. Granted, they are doing so because they are trying to persuade an audience who does believe the Bible is authoritative, but regardless, it only undermines their argument.

What's worse is that, not only are they ripping the verse savagely out of context, they're not even quoting the entire verse! The full verse makes it obvious that the conflict isn't between the Bible and the Holy Spirit, but rather between the old and new covenants (which Paul elaborates on elsewhere, such as Rom 7).

DJP said...

Grim: DingDingDingDingDingDing

Jugulum said...

"Granted, they are doing so because they are trying to persuade an audience who does believe the Bible is authoritative, but regardless, it only undermines their argument."

Why would it undermine their argument at all?

If I write a book that includes the line, "This book is not authoritative", and someone quotes that line... Where's the fallacy?

CGrim said...

The statement, "This book is not authoritative" is paradoxical, because the statement itself (being in the book) would not be authoritative, either.

To be consistent, you would have to say, "Some statements in this book are authoritative (including this one), but the rest are not."

Now, there are plenty of books out there for which that is true, but the person who treats the Bible in this manner is essentially picking and choosing which parts of God's Word they will adhere to and which they will ignore. Sadly, this is precisely what many do when they disregard certain parts of Scripture that they dislike or feel uncomfortable with. Rather than recognize that the problem lies with their meager human comprehension, they conclude that God must have erred in some way.

But that's a case for a different NEXT!

Herding Grasshoppers said...

Well said, CG, and succinctly. (Better than the muddled response I was contemplating.)


Am picturing you with a raised eyebrow, about to make someone squirm.

I love this series,


DJP said...

Might look something like this.

Jugulum said...

"The statement, "This book is not authoritative" is paradoxical, because the statement itself (being in the book) would not be authoritative, either.

To be consistent, you would have to say, "Some statements in this book are authoritative (including this one), but the rest are not."

I think at that point, you're descending into an absurdity that results from one of two things:
1.) Not reading my hypothetical book based on author's intent.
2.) Failing to distinguish between "inerrantly authoritative" and "correct".

If I say, "My statements are not authoritative," I'm making a fallible claim about my own fallibility. I'm correct, but the statement is still fallible. (And if I were infallible, then I wouldn't be able to say that.)

You're trying to make it invalid for anyone to ever say the sentence, "My statements are not perfectly authoritative"--and you're doing it by interpreting the sentence in a way that people don't mean.


To take it back to the topic: If the Bible did say, "This book is not inspired by God," it means that the Bible can't be inspired. (Because if it were, then it couldn't deny it.) And it's not illogical for someone to point to that as proof.

Similarly, if the Bible really said, "You shouldn't take this book as a literal, authoritative-in-every-situation guide," it would be proof that you shouldn't. It wouldn't be illogical for someone to point that out.

Yeah... On second thought, I don't think this NEXT works. They're obviously misinterpreting 2 Cor. 3:6, but it doesn't have the logical inconsistency that it looked like at first glance.

Anonymous said...

I remember saying something like this in youth group as high school kid. Thank you for the grace God. He has saved me from so much!

DJP said...

Yep. It's very common to insist that these words mean exactly what they say (out of context), in proving that other verses do not mean exactly what they say (even in context).

Anonymous said...

Reminds me of Vizzini, using the word "inconceivable" in references to obviously "conceivable" events.
Inigo Montoya: You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means...
(Above is a completely un-called-for, gratuitous reference to Princess Bride. It was a weak attempt to insert a quote that may or may not have anything to do with the discussion, but it sounded good to me.)

Canyon Shearer, DMin said...

I'm taking a class right now on prayer from what used to be a Baptist Seminary...today most of the students are mystical Pelagians...

I fight this fight everyday, everyone is certain God is speaking to them personally...some of them I have no doubt somebody is speaking to them, but I'm sure it's not God.

DJP said...

Argh, C. B.

So... why are you?

David Sheldon said...

Yes - people do really do this dodge. I suppose even saints can have weak moments and think like this when we are engaged in the battle of the flesh verses the Spirit.

My response to the NEXT and to someone who might think like it:
“The letter kills but the Spirit gives life”
(2 Corinthians 3:6b)

In context – Paul is talking about the Old Covenant which came with glory and the New Covenant which comes with glory.

In context – the Old Covenant came “in letters upon stones” (vs.7). (Dead stones can’t obey a Holy God by the way.)

Within Biblical context – the New Covenant promise was NOT like the Old Covenant because in the Old Covenant Israel wouldn’t OBEY that Law – Jeremiah 31:32 – even though God was faithful.

Within Biblical context – the New Covenant was to be that very Law now written into their hearts – Jeremiah 31:33

Within Biblical context – this same Paul also tells us that we are now able to pay attention to and fulfill the just requirements of the Law because of the presence of the Spirit – Romans 8:4. And then Romans 8:5 tells us this happens when our minds (thoughts) are set on the things of the Spirit.

Within Biblical context – those spiritual thoughts are also spiritual words –
1 Corinthians 2:10-16.
And those would be located...?????? Surprise!

DJP - our thanks to you for making us think!

DJP said...

Very good addition, David, thanks.

As I explained, the point of the "Next!" was quickly to expose the ridiculousness of this oft-heard remark. You are literally quoting the Bible and literally applying it bindingly to "argue" that we must not literally quote the Bible and apply it literally and bindingly. It collapses on itself for absurdity, and needs to be exposed as absurd.

Your contribution, David, points to a very solid follow-up.

David Sheldon said...

I oft jump the gun!

Canyon Shearer, DMin said...


I'm finishing my MDiv and MAR in December...the prayer class is required for the MAR. This seminary was the only one with a full online program when I started.

If I wasn't so close to finishing I would quit and transfer to a different program, but I'm nearly finished, and it has proved to be a good missions field.