A few years ago, I came across a blog post on Patheos that did a really great job of overviewing how progressive Christians (including myself) approach the Bible. I think it is worth revisiting.
I’d also highly recommend Peter Enns’ latest book, “How the Bible Actually Works“.
The article on Patheos, but Roger Wolsey is available here, or read an extract below:
16 Ways Progressive Christians Interpret the Bible
JANUARY 21, 2014 BY ROGER WOLSEY
I’ve long stated that atheists and fundamentalists each tend to read the Bible in the same wooden, overly literalistic manner. The difference is that atheists reject what they read in that manner, while fundamentalists believe it.
There’s a lot of truth to that – enough that it tends to piss off members of both of those groups off when they come across what I said.
However, I’ve also said that all Christians pick and choose which portions of the Bible they interpret literally, progressive Christians simply admit this and share how we discern.
That observation has resonated with many people – including many fundamentalists who are honest with themselves and who rightly contend that they don’t read “all of the Bible literally.” Some of these more self-reflective fundamentalists have asked me, “So, how do you progressives ‘discern’ and interpret the Bible? Seems like you just read into it what you want it to say; twist it; and don’t take it seriously.” I generally respond by reminding them that – that which we criticize most in others, is often that which we struggle with most ourselves.
While no doubt true, and I fully stand by holding that mirror up to them, they deserve an actual response.
I can’t speak for all progressive Christians, but here’s how many progressive Christians approach, discern, and interpret the Bible:
1. We embrace the many variations of the view expressed by many great Christian thinkers that “We take the Bible too seriously, to read it all literally.”
2. We don’t think that God wrote the Bible. We think it was written by fallible human beings who were inspired by (not dictated to by) the Holy Spirit. Hence, we don’t consider it to be infallible or inerrant. [My comment: This does not deny the divine and God-inspired nature of the Bible – see below for more detail.]
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