The entire foundation of Christianity is based on one core belief: to some extent or another the book we call the Bible is written or direct by God as a message to humans about reality, about truth. On one end we have Christians who would say that the Bible is the absolute authority on life, it is the original, inspired, authorized, inerrant, and infallible Word of God. This is the fundamental view (and common but not exclusive to evangelicals).
At the other end of the spectrum is the belief that while the Bible contains the message of God it is in fact prone to human errors, tainted by cultural influences, and correctable by science and historical analysis. This view allows for the acceptance of evolution, opens the door for universal-ism, and allows for adaptation of the Christian religion to modern culture. It still would insist that God’s primary message is through the Scriptures but that we must weight this with a grain of salt.
I certainly began my life (till about 22) with the most extreme fundamental view. God’s word was perfect. In fact, it was living, the words themselves could convict and change lives. This would explain why many Christians endlessly repeat Bible verses about Jesus to those who don’t believe. The Bible is more powerful than any other book in history because God himself wrote or inspired it. Therefore, it can actually change your thought process and make you think in a new way.
Without delving into too many details, I began slowly progressing toward the more liberal view. While a number of issues impacted this the primary influence was sparked by this one question:
Who determined which books would be a part of the New Testament and which ones would not?
Seems simple enough. Through childhood I figured that the books of the New Testament were unanimously chosen by the original early church and clearly believed to be written by God to even the first generation believers. I thought that these books were all written by first hand encounters with Jesus.
Numerous authors (including but not in any way exclusive to the one’s we know in the New Testament) penned numerous books, letters, and apocryphal literature regarding Christianity in the first few centuries of the religion. Many of these books are presumed to be written by those who claim to have written them, many were written using famous people as their pen name (a common practice). Some of the stories and facts align with other historical documents of the time, others do not. Very few (if any) early church leaders believed they were writing God’s Word on par with the Old Testament. Different sects of Christianity followed different teachings and held different books in high esteem. Eventually the official church leaders (perhaps like the Catholic Church in Europe, or the Baptists in the US as the most common sect) got together and selected which books agreed with the established church doctrine and rejected those which did not. Certain sects of Christianity disagreed with this selection and at least as recently as Martin Luther, key Christian leaders have strongly questioned its validity.
Before you jump down my throat let me clarify, this is an over-simplification, and not 100% accurate. But it gives you an idea. For a more detailed explainations I’ve included a couple of links I found helpful:
….to be continued. Happy Holidays!
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