Thinking Out Loud

November 24, 2013

Rob Bell on Jonah and the Great Big Fish

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:58 am

Rob Bell has started a series on his blog robbell.com titled “What Is the Bible?” (Not to be confused with Phil Vischer’s excellent DVD series for kids, “What’s In The Bible?”)  As I write this, Rob has 14 chapters posted, and I do admit to having no idea where he’s going and what he’s going to say next. Are we getting a preview of a future book manuscript? If so, I’m saving the chapters just in case.

In parts 3 and 4, he looks at the Jonah story. Here’s a brief excerpt from part four:

Rob Bell 5…What do I think? I don’t think it matters what you believe about a man being swallowed by a fish.

If you don’t believe it literally happened, that’s fine. Lots of people of faith over the years have read this story as a parable about national forgiveness. They point to many aspects of the surreal nature of the story as simply great storytelling because the author has a larger point, one about the Israelites and the Assyrians and God’s call to be a light to everyone, especially your enemies.

Right on. Well said.
Just one problem. Some deny the swallowed-by-a-fish part not from a literary perspective, but on the basis of those things just don’t happen. Which raises a number of questions: What’s the criteria for the denial? Do we only affirm things that can be proven in a lab? Do we only believe things we have empirical evidence for? Do we believe or not believe something happened based on…whether we believe that things like that happen or not? (That was an awkward sentence. Intentionally.) Can we only affirm things that make sense to us? Are we closed to everything that we can’t explain?

If we reject all miraculous elements of all stories because we have made up our mind ahead of time that such things simply aren’t possible, we run the risk of shrinking the world down to what we can comprehend. And what fun is that?

That said, there are others who say, Of course he was swallowed a fish, that’s what the story says happened!

Fine.
Just one problem. It’s possible to affirm the literal fact of a man being swallowed by a fish, making that the crux of the story in such a way that you defend that, believe that, argue about that-and in spending your energies on the defend-the-fish-part miss the point of the story, the point about allowing God’s redeeming love to flow through us with such power and grace that we are able to love and bless even our worst enemies…

…continue reading here

May 15, 2011

Bart Ehrman Steps Up His Assault on Scripture

Move over Marcus Borg and Shelby Spong.  Bible “scholar” Bart Ehrman has upped the ante with his new release, a book with the brazen title, Forged, published by HarperCollins, ironically the parent company of Zondervan, publisher of the NIV Bible.  From Dan Brown to the Jesus Seminar, it seems like hardly a month goes by without another volley being fired on the Bible, even as the KJV anniversary attests to the book’s endurance.   Ben Witherington III responds:

…This book should not be confused with some of Bart’s previous efforts, in particular Misquoting Jesus, as Bart is not arguing in this book merely that [there] are errors or mistakes in the Bible.   No, in this book he takes the next step in arguing that there is deliberate fraud going on in the canon, deceitful practices undertaken to convince or bamboozle some audience into believing something, on the basis of the authority of some apostle or original disciple, who in fact did not write the book in question.      In other words,  Bart is taking on not merely the conservative view that the NT is written by those authors to whom it is attributed but also the widespread notion that pseudonymity was a regular and widely recognized literary practice in antiquity, and that no one was deceived, nor was there an intent to deceive by such a practice.   This book is likely to addle scholars and lay people all across the spectrum of belief, including quite liberal ones who have for a long time argued that pseudonymity was an accepted practice in antiquity.   To judge from the early reviews … those who are looking for an excuse to call the early Christians liars and deceivers are delighted with this book.

Continue reading Ben Witherton’s critique here,  as well as this news item on Forged at CNN’s Belief Blog.

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