Collier on authority and inspiration

“ . . . The more I understand the nature of the texts in front of us, the better informed can be my view of scriptural authority.  I will be less likely to overstatGDCe it, and less likely to understate it.  E.g., on the one hand, I won’t make claims about so-called “perfect” original autographs, when that is nothing but speculation growing out of dogmatic theory.  On the other hand, I won’t deny God working in real people to carry out his will (i.e. real and flawed authors).

So then, if find out that Paul incorrectly reports a number in 1Cor 10:8, or if I come to realize that the Gospels don’t actually agree in all details and cannot be flawlessly combined into one account, I won’t make the ridiculous statement “If there is even one little mistake in the Bible, then I can’t trust any of it.”  . . .

If we need to “trump up” our statements of biblical authority, it implies a weak position.  The best statement of biblical authority is one that fits the evidence we have of the actual texts.

 – Gary Collier, CoffeeWithPaul.com (scroll down about a screen’s worth)

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Inspiration is God at work in ancient text to touch and move the lives of people. It does not need to be more complicated than that.

– Gary Collier, Lesson 22 of “40 Things Everybody Should Know about the Bible.”

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Voices: Gary Collier on pulsating churches

The following is transcribed from an online video:

When we talk about building a church that is close-knit, vibrant, and pulsating, we normally think about a praise team with music that echoes into the four corners of the city and a preacher that makes us laugh and cry in the same sentence, and a new state-of-the-art worship center that all by itself will go out and bring people to God.

None of us believes this, but we actually act this way – that if we have all these things in place . . . we can kind of dance down the hallways, you know, because it’s so pulsating and so marvelous . . . then we’re getting there . . . and if we’re a quiet group, then that means we’re kind of a dead church.

Now, look … these things are fine; I’m not really criticizing any of the things that I just mentioned, necessarily, but they do not define a close-knit, vibrant, and pulsating church, and that’s the point that I’m getting at.  We can have all those things and still be a dead church.

We can have all those things and have God still say to us, “I hate . . . your times of worship. . . .”

. . .

A church that is close-knit, alive, vibrant, and pulsating

  • Might run up and down the aisles, or it might stand stone-cold still.
  • Might have an awesome praise team, or some person who starts the singing from the third row.
  • Might have a preacher as well known as Billy Graham, or as dry and stiff as Gary Collier, 🙂 or no preacher at all.
  • Might have a brand-new, multimillion-dollar worship complex, or it might meet in a basement.

– Gary D. Collier, Coffee With Paul Ministries, Inc., transcribed from a live, Internet-delivered lesson on church community

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I recommend to my readers Gary’s online bible study program.  Find more info at http://coffeewithpaul.com/.  A new session begins this Saturday, June 15 — studying Galatians.

Commencing exegesis

Today is the first day of a new learning opportunity for me, and I’m enthused.  As part of this new endeavor, several will be studying Paul’s (and Silas’s and Timothy’s) letter known as “1 Thessalonians.”  Far from “devotional Bible study,” although that has its place from time to time, this is to be a serious, responsible, contextual study of the text.

One key factor in good exegesis is awareness of the literary context.  A sense of the entire document at hand aids in prevening unhelpful eisegesis.  Toward awareness of the contextual whole, those involved directly in this new study opportunity read the entire letter (some more than once, but I was pressed for time, and somewhat moody this week — forgive me).

Here are some thoughts related to themes, shared anonymously, from others in the group:

  • “How dear the Thessalonians were to Paul, how thankful he was for them, and the lengths to which he was willing to go for them—and perhaps they for him.”
  • “Themes?  Hope, grounded on Faith (objective), and lived out in a Loving manner.”  (This writer astutely ties in the hope, faith, love trifecta that appears twice in the book, as such.)
  • One student chose this sentence as the prime driving force for the letter:  “You saw it for what it truly is, the Word of God, powerfully active in you who are believers.”

My own ideas on themes in 1Thess, at this relatively early stage of studying the document, arise somewhat from how I’ve read and studied Colossians, Philemon in recent times.  So far, however, I’m relying more on rate of recurrence of phrases and words than on anything deeper in the structure of the document.  Here’s what I have, in no particular order:

Relationship (intimacy, face-to-face visits)
Gospel/message
Living patterns, holiness
Last things/end times
Persecution & trouble/Jews

Let the studying begin, and let the message of this letter — one of the two earliest in Christian history — begin to be more clear than ever!

Understanding authors

If I want to understand Mark Twain’s socio-political scruples as implied in The Prince and the Pauper, I probably won’t get much from The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

I’ve admired several of Frederick Buechner’s writings. If I want to dig into his life, I won’t get insight into the impact of his father’s suicide, which is detailed autobiographically in The Sacred Journey, by reading his fictional interpolation of Abraham and Isaac (Son of Laughter).

If I want to know who Horton is and why he hears a Who, I probably won’t find much help in the legend of the green eggs and ham. Sure, I get a little surface insight by reading another Geisel/Seuss work–something is clear about the author and his overall bent–but not much more than that.

Just wondering why we Christians are typically so careless with this type of thing. . . .

I mean, yeah, Paul wrote Galatians and 1 Timothy and was somehow divinely inspired to do so, but they’re different letters, written at different times, to different people, for different purposes.  Paul wrote them both, so, as with Seuss, we can get a general idea of his M.O. by reading two distinct letters, but one doesn’t help all that much to interpret the other.

This didn’t start out to be a plug, but I feel called to plug now. Two men whose spirits and intellects I respect greatly are working toward related Bible-reading goals. Gary Collier (http://www.CoffeeWithPaul.com and http://www.CoffeeWithPaul.com/aroma/index.html has embarked on a voyage of significant “instructive devotion” as he teaches how to read New Covenant scripture with careful attention to literary context (yes, with some Greek). Gary’s learning and gift with words, together with his insight into relationship, uniquely qualify him for this pastoral task.

Greg Fay is simultaneously writing a magnum companion-volume set on how to read the Bible. Yes, this type of thing has been done before, or so it would seem if you just look at the title. But I submit to you that if these books are published, the modern Christian world (and more) will have its best-ever methodologies for how to read scripture. I’ve been privileged to read the chapters as he writes them; I know both the wealth of content and the well-supported logic in the writing. Greg’s diagnosis is, essentially, that we read scripture verses sort of like “ink-blots,” isolating them from all context and imbuing them with meanings that sound good in Christianese but that are causing us to miss God’s original intent. The therapy for this malady is also prescribed by Dr. Greg.

If both Gary’s and Greg’s works are disseminated and utilized by as many people as they should touch, we could see a mass biblical intelligence boost that changes the face of Christendom. Wishful thinking, yes. But perhaps you would ask God to accomplish His purposes through these works, elevating the labors of these men’s minds and hands as they attempt to bolster God’s Kingdom?

To the sisters who sought recently to explain Romans 5 by appealing to 1 Corinthians 13 (or, further afield, to James or 2 Peter!): you are victims of a decades-old problem with the hermeneutical control tower that directs our scripture-reading flights. It’s not all your fault.