What do people think about the Bible?

Robin Ham writes: I had the opportunity last week to hear a presentation from Osoba Otaigbe of Bible Society about their Lumino Research Project on attitudes to the Bible. I’d heard the research referenced previously in passing, but this was the first time I’d looked at it in detail.

If you’ve not come across it, it’s a fascinating and insightful piece of reflection based on YouGov polling, commissioned by Bible Society, which saw 20,000 people interviewed at the end of 2018 about their attitudes to Christianity and the Bible.

This data has been analysed and the population has been accordingly mapped into 8 spiritual types or ’personas’, based on attitudes to the Bible. These range from the extremes of ‘Bible Loving’ people (5%) to ‘Bible Dismissive’ people (31%), but crucially with a whole range in between. These include Bible Infrequent (8%), Bible Cultural (13%), Bible Nostalgic (8%), Bible Uncertain (7%), Bible Conflicted (5%), and Bible Indifferent (23%).

In response to the data, it’s Bible Society’s belief that around a quarter of the population are ‘open to the Bible and finding out more’ – and the project seeks to draw out from this mapping ofattitudes how we might better engage with these personas as churches.

One of the neat features of the Lumino website is you can enter your post-code and see how your local data compares with the national average (I don’t know how accurate this can be with 20,000 people polled, but it’s interesting nonetheless). Interestingly, Bible Society have undergone a deliberate change in emphasis in their mission, which is to now be a ‘partner’ with UK churches in mission – and this project is a flagship example of this. Their aims are now to build Bible confidence, Change the conversation about the Bible, and Bible distribution.

How did we get here?

Pollster George Barna has previously spoke of a ‘crisis of biblical illiteracy’. The very phase is perhaps enough to prompt knowing shakes of the head, and deep, long, sighs from the faithful. Previous reports have indicated that a third of children aged 8–15 in the UK couldn’t identify the Nativity as a biblical story, and the same amount thought Harry Potter was in the Bible. For a second it’s ditzy funny, and then you realise it’s just plain desperate. Kevin DeYoung & Greg Gilbert have described how the Bible’s increasingly peripheral place in the West has “spawned a rising generation of postmodern biblical illiterates”.

It’s fascinating how we can instinctively react with blame here. Biblical illiteracy? Yes, that’ll be the fault of our consumer culture’s carte-du-jour of endless options. And, of course, throw into the mix the distracting banality of social media, and if together those aren’t enough of a ’cause’, then we can always assign fault to liberal Christianity’s constant erosion of a high view of Scripture. Blame.

But of course, this is part of a complex narrative that we can’t do justice to in a couple of paragraphs. That said, we at least need to ask questions of ourselves as churches, church leaders, and denominations. Readers of this will come from different traditions and tribes, and so there may be distinct diagnoses for each of us, but no doubt there may be over-lapping indicators and causes.

What the Data Might Mean

Mark Woods, editor at Bible Society, suggests the research challenges the narrative that Christianity in the West has had it’s day, or that the Bible is therefore past its use-by-date. Whilst there is a clear and sizeable 31% of the population that is ‘Bible dismissive’, he notes that not everyone in that category is actually ‘hostile’. As Woods points out, “for most people, attitudes to faith and the Bible are much more complicated.” This is the reality of people not necessarily having a “fully worked-out position,” but one formed “inconsistently and erratically, probably” from a whole variety of influencing factors in our lives. That is to say,

far from facing a population that’s simply indifferent or hostile to faith and the Bible, we’re embedded among people who are infinitely various, interesting, and very often, interested.

No doubt that nuance will ring true for many of us as we reflect on our own ministry experiences.

Frances Spufford’s brilliant line in Unapologetic is very perceptive:

Our culture is still saturated with the spillage of Christianity, slopped out of the broken container of faith and soaked through everything.

So there is that echo of something familiar that seems to resonate and reverberate as we minister from and with the Scriptures in our communities. But as I’ve mulled on the data and the Lumino personas, I’ve been led to consider seven reflective questions.

7 Reflective Questions from Lumino

1. Have we faced up to the issue of Bible confidence in our churches? 

It’s no surprise that this notion of ‘Bible confidence’ is now at the forefront of Bible Society’s mission. The data is clear: many professing Christians have a confidence problem when it comes to the Bible. According to the data, uncertainty, scepticism and even diffidence in relation to the Scriptures amongst professing Christians is very common. The slice of people that the Bible Society deemed to be ‘Bible Loving’ was slim (5%). They attended church very regularly and notably were generally older than average.

In contrast, those who were ‘Bible Infrequent’ (8%) still attended church quite regularly but tended to feel they weren’t sure about the Bible or worried about ‘being wrong’. There were then various groupings that identified as ‘Christian’ but had an increasingly removed relationship with the Bible. Sadly, this is particularly pointed for those of us in the Church of England: ‘Bible Infrequent’ people were much more likely to be Anglican or Roman Catholic than ‘Bible loving’ people, in contrast to other denominations. Only once we’ve recognised this lack of confidence, will we consider doing something about it.

2. So more practically, are we leading services and preaching in a way that helps people to read the Bible for themselves?

It always strikes me as tragic when Bibles are left at the end of a pew, or on the back of the chair in front, in our church services. What are we doing on a Sunday to encourage Bible engagement? Is it evident to people that our preaching is about prayerfully longing for the Spirit of God to speak through the word of God? Or do we have a haphazard approach to Scripture, betraying surface-level preparation and quickly re-routing to trite hobby-horses and vague aphorisms? I think the latter is a temptation even for those of us who in theory have a high view of Scripture. Maybe some of us who preach would do well to honestly ask ourselves, ‘Would I listen to that?!” Of course, we all have ‘off days’ – and it’s about the regular week-by-week feeding, rather than one-off spectacles – but we can’t fault congregations for switching off if there’s nothing of substance transmitting.

Perhaps some of us will need to recover a view of preaching that is more than just glorified information-sharing (even if that information is orthodox and ‘sound’). Some of us could ask ourselves when was the last time we sought to refresh our preaching? Have we sought feedback recently? Are we giving it the time it deserves? Others of us will need to reflect on whether we truly believe listening to the word of God is as spiritual an experience as the twenty-minutes of singing that came five minutes earlier. Opening up the Scriptures isn’t absolutely everything that a church leader is called to do, but it has to be absolutely essential.

3. Similarly, are we facilitating personal engagement with the Bible outside of church services/meetings?

Would you be able to guess how many people in your church are involved in daily personal Bible reading? If not, what might that in itself tell us? I don’t think it’s a surprise to suggest that results here will directly correlate to how we answered the previous question. Closed Bibles on a Sunday at church will surely lead to closed Bibles at home Monday-Saturday. Here we can give thanks for the popularity of smartphone apps like HTB’s ‘Bible in One Year’ or the audio-focused ‘Dwell’, both of which seem to be encouraging daily Bible engagement amongst those under-40. Personally, I love the way that the Good Book Company’s ‘Explore’ notes/app have an intentional desire to push the reader into the text of Scripture, rather than skimming along the surface or relying on someone else’s ‘commentary’, though I admit bias here as someone who occasionally writes for them!

Of course, we might have unhelpful stereotypes in our minds about what personal Bible-reading looks like. For example, I remember one lecturer at theological college remarking that there’s ‘no reason why Quiet Times have to be quiet’. Similarly, I think we can sometimes give the impression that it’s all about reading something ‘new’, rather than discovering something fresh in something familiar, or even returning regularly to trusted pasture to find treasured sustenance. Anecdotally, I wonder if that’s why it seems been a gentle rise in people reading through the Psalms in this season of lockdown. It’s highlighted the need for personal rhythms and a faith that is not reliant on a weekly top-up.

4. But are we realistic about the cultural challenges we face?

For all that Bible Society might acknowledge the complexity and inconsistency of some people’s positions, it’s hard to deny we face some real challenges in our cultural moment. Nearly half of the people surveyed (47.5%) said they were ‘not at all interested’ in discovering more about the Bible. Nearly another quarter (23.4%) said they were ‘not very interested’. Perhaps unsurprisingly, reasons given included ‘not being religious’, previous experience of Christians/church, and time capacity.

Tim Keller often speaks of ‘defeater beliefs’, unspoken assumptions that need to be engaged with in people’s minds before they will consciously give Christianity a hearing. But here we also have ‘defeater experiences’, effectively limiting in people’s minds what is even possible when it comes to experiencing the Bible. We’re seeking to help people imagine something altogether different. That said, it’s clear there are also particular ‘stumbling blocks’ we need to rationally engage with, which leads us to…

5. Are we prepared to give a reason for the hope we place in Scripture?

Undoubtedly, there is a clear need for Bible apologetics. In the Lumino research, the most common words that people associated with the Bible were Outdated and Contradictory. Other negative words, though less common, were Judgmental, Homophobic and Anti-women. How do we respond to these preconceptions? Of course, our lives as Christians should hopefully do a great deal to challenge these, but it strikes me that we do need to tackle these ‘head on’. In our preaching we need to name them and show we understand and identify with them. Rebecca McLaughlin’s excellent book, Confronting Christianity, is a stunning example of this. All that said, 37% of people simply stated they believed the Bible wouldn’t be relevant to them – which strikes me as an opportunity to prove people wrong!

6. Are we personally experiencing and modelling Bible Delight?

I love the title of Christopher Ash’s wonderfully devotional preacher’s guide to Psalm 119, ‘Bible Delight’. It unpacks the rich and holistic way in which that psalm describes how God engages with us in Scripture. For me, this has to be at the heart of any ‘answer’ to the lack of confidence in our churches. These perceptions and beliefs about the Bible are only going to be transformed as people actually ‘taste and see’ for themselves that the Bible is life-giving and life-changing, ultimately as we encounter God through it.

If that’s not a church-goer’s weekly experience, then why would they look for that in their day-to-day experience? And why would they expect to see anything different if they invite unbelieving friends to give the Bible a read? So as ministers and preachers, surely we need to consider whether that’s our own experience personally too? Is the Bible simply a task to be mastered, or a meal table for our hearts? What could we do to rekindle that relationship with the God of the Scriptures – not that there is any other God of course! Does the language of Psalm 119 seem a distant memory to us – or perhaps something we’ve never had?

7. Have we lost sight of the over-arching narrative of the Scriptures?

I’ve written about this before , and I think it’s fair to say I’m passionate about it. Biblical illiteracy is not going to simply be solved by ‘more Bible’. I think the real challenge of biblical illiteracy is moving beyond familiarity with Bible stories to introducing people to the Bible’s big story. It’s always dangerous to make sweeping statements about preaching, but I think bad preaching can make biblical illiteracy worse, failing to help people read the Bible well. We can rip verses out of context and we don’t give people the tools to help locate themselves within the vast story of Scripture.

Of course, the goal of good preaching isn’t just so that people know how Genesis to Revelation all fits together. We’re doing this because this story of God is the very thing our fractured world needs right now. I remember reading an article in the Irish Times a few years back about the growth of the ‘hipster’ identity. It perceptively argued that our crisis of identify shows we’re desperate for a ‘meaningful narrative about who we are’. In other words, as we feel the disorientation of a growing cultural unfamiliarity with the Bible, our response shouldn’t be to champion the Scriptures for the sake of Bible trivia, but rather because we want people to see that in this book we have the only story of reality that can bear the weight of our personal struggles for meaning and substance. The Bible Project videos, giving an overview of both the whole Bible and individual books, as well as tracing different theological themes through the whole story of Scripture, are a great resource here.

I hope these give pause for thought and might help us ‘look within’. Have you come across the Lumino data? What are your reflections and what questions or actions are you prompted to ask or take?

Robin Ham is the Pioneer Minister with responsibility for Grace Church Barrow in the Diocese of Carlisle, as well as teaching Mission and Apologetics for Cumbria Christian Learning and is a member of the Archbishop’s College of Evangelists. He blogs regularly at ThatHappyCertainty.com, and collates a weekly round-up of links called The Sunday Refill there.

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67 thoughts on “What do people think about the Bible?”

  1. Fascinating study! Thank you for highlighting it.

    I’ve looked at the ‘personas’ and can’t really find one that would identify me. One of the issues that frequently comes up here and in other places is the vast range of attitudes to the bible than occur INSIDE the Anglican Church – and which some people say is the biggest issue that faces Anglicans. This study doesn’t seem to reckon with that at all – and probably isn’t intended to.

    So I, for example, would class the bible as the Church’s ‘title deeds’, and essential for an understanding of the big picture of our faith. But I would not want to ascribe to it the final word on every matter, or say that it was always right, or infallible, or inerrant. I would want to say that the bible was limited by the culture of those who wrote it, and so readers several thousand years later would need to understand something of those limitations when reading. I can’t find a persona that would work for such a category – which is by no means an unusual category.

    • I’m unsure you should be considering the the bible as title deeds, taking into account the rest of your views, as they contain covenants, positive and negative, restrictive, and conditions, limitations on use, rights and responsibilities, easements, rights, for full and proper enjoyment of the land and neighbour’s which don’t change from due to social change.

      • Ah but the title deeds aren’t the actual building, and don’t tell you how to live in it. They are just bits of paper about the origins and ownership of the property and land. Living in the property and on the land is where the real adventure begins.

        • They are not just for the past. They are for the present. And they tell you how to live on it, alongside neighbours, today.
          If you live on an estate, subject to building scheme covenants rights and easements, for the mutual benefit of all properties, you might not think it a do it yourself adventure
          It seems that the CoE church as given up title, abandoned it, and become subject to “adverse possession”.

          • I simply know what you say here: “It seems that the CoE church as given up title, abandoned it, and become subject to “adverse possession”. “
            So obviously presume you are not part of the C of E.

          • How little you know, Andrew, let down by your
            1 “simple”
            2 “presumption”
            3 “simple presumption”
            4 “obvious” conclusion
            How can I say it gently Andrew;? your interpretation is wrong, not based on actual knowledge of me, nor a careful consideration of the method of understanding you employed – your interpretation of the words I used.
            I could:

            1.1 be part of the Anglican church
            1.2 and be merely putting an opposing view
            1.2.1 and not caring
            1.2.2 or grieved
            2 not part of the Anglican church
            2.2 relieved
            2.3 aggreived
            2.4 as a Christian
            2.5 or traditionally moral atheist, former lawyer who merely underlined a poor legal example by stretching it out, following it through.
            2.5 or a moralistic, therapeutic, deist
            But of course it is none of those, as for you, it’s only a question of your – your wrong, untrue interpretation.

          • I guess it could also make you a hypocrite then.
            The point of your anonymity ‘Geoff’, (because you could have any other name, you could be female, you could be in Australia or North India) is that it enables you to make personal comments, as you have done several times before, and act in a way entirely at odds with anything Christian. Added to which you have actually said nothing at all about the subject of the post.
            Anyway, greeetings in Christ ‘Geoff’.

          • Andrew,
            The comments I’ve made have been in response to your comment and group of “persona” within the CoE of which you are one, and the view of what the Bible is and reason(s) to read, study.
            This is a question over your view of the bible, which I’ve teased out.
            And the dead end methodology of it’s “only” or “all” interpretation that you espouse.
            These are questions of essential, Christian, foundational, import.
            Not sure where the hypocrisy is on my part, in this matter, nor the personal comment other than to state that you are wrong, and you are.
            Yours, in our bodily resurrected , Spirit raised and ascended, Jesus.

          • Thanks for your opinion Geoff. Enough for now but I’d be happy to correspond by e mail in order to get to know and understand each other better. Happy Pentecost.

      • Thanks Andrew,
        We all approach our view of the bible and interpretation from a priori grounds and presumptions and ultimately of God. We all do well if we are honest and open with ourselves and others over what they are, how and why they are present and what factors have been weighty in their formation and possible change and epistemology of God and scripture.
        And. if it’s all interpretation, it can not be proven true, and opinions can not be tested for weight or validity; neither can we live day to day, based on opinion, on interpretation. Justice systems, for one, would fall to anarchy pushed to polarities of opinion and interpretation. Simply, we can not live that way, when push comes to shove.
        But, yes, it is enough.

        • Absolutely we have to live in faith and make a decision for Christ…. but in terms of knowing and proof… then I think what Paul says about seeing through a glass darkly is very important…..

          Hope this helps


  2. I think this is one of those areas where we need to bring some common assumptions into question.

    Individual Bible Study: I have greatly benefitted from a habit of daily bible reading. But I would have to say that the majority of my biblical and theological formation came from wrestling with particular passages and often contentious issues, sometimes in conversation with others and sometimes alone. A large part of this has involved spending time deeply thinking through and meditating upon difficult passages, especially concerning passages or issues neglected in popular preaching. How can we create opportunities in our churches to encourage such theological formation/reflection?

    Home Groups: Once again, I’ve greatly benefitted from a traditional home group model, of mostly application-focused studies and lots of prayer for practical needs (this is exactly the kind of approach which I take with my own group of mostly middle-aged and older folk). But I’ve often found that many believers, particularly younger adults and teenagers want to really wrestle with the Bible and with different approaches to understanding it. Such a context would require a different sort of dynamic from a traditional home group model, one in which discussion around thorny issues in the text were encouraged, as would be discussions characterised by gracious disagreement. Is there a space for this?

    Preaching: How often in preaching is there a danger that a lot of work goes into producing a polished final result, yet without showing any of the (potentially unresolved) questions that were wrestled with or the deep engagement and reflection which helped to organise the preacher’s thinking about the text? Perhaps we need to consider how to ‘show our working’ a bit more, so that others can benefit not only from the final result, but from the approach which got us there. The few times that I have heard preachers include these ‘working notes’ in their sermons have provided some of the most memorable and stimulating times, which have often led to a great deal of further study on my part and that of many others. This has proven to be incredibly enriching to both myself and many others.

  3. Hi Ian

    Thanks for this insight – really helpful.

    Incidentally, the 1 in 4 / 1 in 5 figure aligns with the rule of thumb that active ‘Bible sharers’ are finding in the Western world. That is….as we pro-actively invite those around us to engage with the Bible, roughly 1 in 5 will say yes!

    It seems the problem is not so much a lack of interest as a lack of boldness and conviction in us followers of Christ (which does relate to some of the other issues you raise).

    Encouragingly there seems to be some appetite to address this issue but we have a long way to go yet. John 4:35.

    Thanks again brother.

    Le Fras

  4. Is there a version of the Bible that is laid out graphically so that the differences are highlighted, i.e. poetry laid out with lots of white space; Acts like a blog or news feed; the callouts in Genesis set in boxes like a magazine layout. etc etc? Each book could be given a different treatment. I expect it has been done but I’ve never seen one. Even putting the separate books of the bible in a box set would be fun and demonstrate how diverse the bible is. I can imagine the fists 10 ‘and God said’s in Genesis laid out as in cuneiform on clay. This would get away from the hackneyed 7 day folio and put God’s word front and central right from the start.

        • Hi Steve,
          you may have to wait for ever! But I have just had a thought.
          The first words were written on wet clay.
          God breathed on Adam who was made of clay.
          The Word is Jesus the son of Adam.
          He now writes his words on us.
          One day I will make Genesis 1&2 look like words written on a man made of clay.
          A clay tablet shaped man.
          But then I have lots of pending ideas…

  5. A plug here for the bible.is website and app. 1300+ languages and counting. Put it on your phone and then it doesn’t matter who you meet during the day, Yoruba, Turk, Chinese, Romanian, you could replay them your morning reading in their own language, often with a (slightly melodramatic) video.

  6. I found the labels difficult to identify with. Specifically, anyone who is “Bible loving” will get to the first experience of being “Bible conflicted” at Genesis 2:5 (no shrub of the field had yet appeared, in contrast to Genesis 1:11) – long before they get to Exodus 24:10 (the elders of Israel saw the God of Israel, in contrast to John 1:18) or 1 Corinthians 9:10 (it doesn’t mean what you thought it meant.) No doubt there can be legitimate explanations in these and dozens of other situations. Even worse, there is the moral conflict of feeling “uh-huh, I need to live in such-and-such a way, no hope of that!” Overall the verdict must be – if you’re not Bible-conflicted, you haven’t read it yet.

  7. I have read the Bible regularly and aside from most of my qualifications being science and engineering I am one of those annoying people who has many theological qualifications (both Christianity and Islam) right up to Masters in the subject.

    Even at work back in the 1980s I was try to read the Bible in my lunch break and work got heavier and heavier. I then read in Exodus that Pharaoh said make them work twice as hard so they don’t have time to listen! (then I realised what was happening).

    My wife and I are doing the Bible in one year together at the moment and I am struck again by the reality BOTH that the Old Testament is theologically important, AND it is also history. It contains a History of Israel and not everything at all is what God exactly wanted. Very often we are reading about the struggle of a people to understand what God wants and a people going astray and worshiping others gods and things. So we are learning about God in Israel’s mistakes and not just in their successes.

    It is only in the New Testament that we read about our Lord Jesus Christ and John’s gospel is clearest making the direct assertion that Jesus Christ IS God and so what we read there is a description of God’s thoughts about us as human beings.

    So even for those who do read the Bible, each time we discover more and more.

    • I absolutely agree that each time we read the bible we discover more and more. And commentaries can be especially helpful in clarifying what was in the mind of the author.

      As to John’s Gospel being a description of what God thinks about us as human beings – well I think that is rather too far fetched. Words are helpful to us rather than descriptive of God. Whoever wrote the fourth Gospel was clearly inspired but to say they describe what God thinks is moving towards bibliolatry.

      • Anyone with intelligence who reads my note will realise that I never said anything of what you claim about your strange concept of biliolatry. Your comment says much more about yourself than about anyone else.

        I read Geoff’s responses to you above and I end up agreeing with him completely.

        Thank you at least for agreeing about us discovering more each time we read th Bible. Perhaps you will read and get glimpses of God that will transform your current thinking. I can only pray that will happen and you will stop criticising others for reading the Bible.

        • Clive: I don’t ever, and never have, criticised anyone for reading the bible so please don’t misrepresent me.
          If you wish to claim that John’s Gospel tells us what God actually thinks then please do provide some proof. I take seriously that fact that no one knows the mind of God and am not sure how you presume to.

          • I take seriously that fact that no one knows the mind of God

            Though you do claim to know the mind of God on some matters: whether those who believe without evidence are blessed, for example, and what God things of various matters sexual.

            What you really mean is that you take seriously the fact that nobody knows the mind of God when they disagree with you. If they agree with you then you’re quite happy to accept that they (and you) know what God thinks (or at least what God ought to think).

          • Andrew,
            Your presumptions rule, again, and your reliance on the citation of looking through as glass darkly is microns thin without more, particularly as you seek to dismiss the Gospel of John, that is the revelation of God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
            The mind of God is revealed by Holy Spirit in scripture and is not limited by your presumption, that it is not, while falling into the hole you dug for yourself, earlier above, which is beyond the proof you then go on to seek from other, but do not provide an epistemological foundation, groundwork for your presumption.
            Nor is the letter to the Corinthians to be limited to a citing of a text to “prove”, your a priori presumption, as it does no such thing in the context of the two letters nor the NT as a whole and the Gospel of John. Your claim that the Bible represents title deeds is self- defeated, dismissed by your very first foray into the comments, into “proof texting” and comments to Clive. I’ll cite the gospel of John as “proof text” for all that is described, claimed and presumed therin.
            Indeed Andrew, title to what? Certainly not title to the Kingdom inheritance of Christians in Christ.
            You must be born again, before you can see the Kingdom of God.
            Seen, how? By revelation from God, by faith. Millions of Christians bear witness, proof, testify. But your a priori intellectual presumptions will no doubt prove to be interpretative truth to you, to such an extent as to have the effect of falsifying scripture, the title deeds made counterfeit.

          • Geoff: where exactly do I ‘dismiss’ the Gospel of John? Please provide evidence of my doing that. I can’t see any…

            “The mind of God is revealed by Holy Spirit in scripture…”
            Where is that proven Geoff? That is simply your interpretation of things. Your opinion. Your theory. Please provide some proof of that.
            The mind of god is beyond all of our understanding so it can never be fully revealed in a book!

          • Andrew,
            Ignoring, side-stepping all the points, counter-points and questions, will not do!
            Following the evidence of your position, through your comments is available for anyone who might care: it provides proof, which you crave,which could be reduced to naming it, “the espousal of anarchy of unproven presumption”, or following through your title deeds illustration, title “by adverse possession” a technical term in land law, which is a reality and not open to what it “means to you”.
            By the way, the burden is on you to prove your assertions, opinions, not by way of repeated assertions.
            It certainly will not do, Andrew.

          • Geoff: you keep avoiding the questions. But that of course was what the Lawyers did in Jesus’ time and what lawyers are often trained to do. Perhaps you are a lawyer.

            The point about title deeds was an analogy. Not a reality. An analogy. All analogies break down at some point. If the analogy isn’t working fir you, then no need to adopt it. It can’t be a reality as title deeds are about property. The church isn’t a property but an association of people in relationship.

            Now you make various claims which you can’t back up. You claim that I dismiss the Gospel of John. Where exactly do I ‘dismiss’ the Gospel of John? Please provide evidence of my doing that. I can’t see any…

            “The mind of God is revealed by Holy Spirit in scripture…” That is your claim.
            Where is that proven Geoff? Because if you can’t provide proof or evidence for a claim, then that is simply your interpretation of things. Your opinion. Your theory.

            Please provide evidence if you wish to make claims.

        • Dear Oh Dear Andrew,
          This is more than repetitive; it is intellectual stagnation, sterility.
          You concede nothing and reveal little other than your set- in- stone unproven opinion
          You O teacher of “Israel” you really don’t understand, estopped by your unproven presumptions and opinions that God can not make himself known, revealing himself in “a book” rather, through a book. (And this is a far cry from bibliodolatry that you use in an an accusatory way, without any attempt to define it, or, better still, what it means to you.)
          Could your god not do that?
          But, remember to you it’s more than a book, more “title deeds.” But title to what?
          How about God making himself known in a person, Jesus who says,
          “You must be born again.”
          And this: John 16:
          13“But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. 14“He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you. 15“All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore I said that He takes of Mine and will disclose it to you.”
          Is Jesus God ?

    • what I really mean is that no one knows the mind of God. We simply have glimpses

      Well one certainly wouldn’t get that impression from the confidence with which you constantly assert that your view of what God thinks is the correct one.

      One might in fact instead get the impression that you disingenuously assert with confidence that you know the mind of God, and if people agree (or merely don’t disagree), you simply let that rest unchallenged to give the impression that you are obviously correct; but if anyone objects you retreat into claiming that no one knows the mind of God so their opinion is not more valid than yours and anyway you weren’t claiming that you knew the mind of God (although if they hadn’t objected you would have been perfectly happy to leave people with the impression that you were claiming exactly that).

      Arguing in bad faith, in other words.

      • I think arguing entirely anonymously without giving any indication of who you are is the very definition of bad faith.

        • I think arguing entirely anonymously without giving any indication of who you are is the very definition of bad faith.

          Why do you think that? Is the ad hominem a vital part of your arguments? Does it make you uncomfortable to have to play the ball rather than the man?

          • I think your anonymity enables you to *always* play the person rather than the ball S.

          • I think your anonymity enables you to *always* play the person rather than the ball S.

            Ah, but I never ever bring anything personal into arguments and engage only with ideas. When I accuse you of arguing in bad faith it is entirely on the basis of what you have written, not your identity (of which I know almost nothing — I typed your name into Google once but as I didn’t find anything remotely interesting I forgot it all).

    • how about some prooftexting from 1Cor2?

      v10: these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.
      The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. 13 This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words.[c] 14 The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. 15 The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, 16 for,

      “Who has known the mind of the Lord
      so as to instruct him?”[d]

      But we have the mind of Christ.

    • Added to which totally anonymity means no accountability

      Rubbish. It means I am totally accountable for any of my ideas which don’t hold water as I cannot appeal to personal authority to back them up. My ideas must stand or fall on their own merit, not on their source — which is how it should always be.

      • If you were at all accountable you would be happy to let people know of your identity.
        You argued until you were blue in the face that Geza Vermes was not a theologian at all. And then when proven entirely wrong you just go quiet. Far easier if you are anonymous.

        • If you were at all accountable you would be happy to let people know of your identity.

          But my identity is not relevant. What matters is whether the ideas I put forward are correct or incorrect and that is entirely independent of my identity.

          You argued until you were blue in the face that Geza Vermes was not a theologian at all. And then when proven entirely wrong you just go quiet.

          Because I wasn’t wrong. Geza Vermes was not a theologian. That is true regardless of my identity.

          • He was a theologian. That is why he was awarded a doctorate in Theology. The clue is in the name.

          • He was a theologian. That is why he was awarded a doctorate in Theology. The clue is in the name.

            And the German Democratic Republic had an anti-fascist protection barrier. Names aren’t everything.

          • Why would he have been awarded a doctorate in Theology if he was not a theologian? Have you ever read any of his books?

          • Why would he have been awarded a doctorate in Theology if he was not a theologian?

            You’d have to take that up with the awarding body. Why call a dictatorship a democratic republic?

            Have you ever read any of his books?

            No; just the descriptions of them on the inter-net. But unless the descriptions are totally misleading they aren’t works of theology but of history.

          • Well, if you haven’t actually read the source material then you can’t really comment can you.
            And I am not the one needing to take anything up with the awarding body – I am not disputing the title. You are the one who is. If you have a problem with it – which you seem to, and I don’t – then maybe time to do something about it?

          • Andrew
            S never reads the source material, yet strangely ‘he’ is able to dismiss scholars more than a millennium apart. Athanasius is a heretic. Vermes is not a theologian. According to ‘S’ who has read neither.

          • Of course Geza Vermes was not a theologian. He was a scholar of Hebrew and of Jewish history.

          • Geza Vermes, translator and editor of The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls and worldwide expert on the life and times of Jesus, tells the enthralling story of early Christianity and the origins of a religion. (Sounds quite a theological kind of history- which is maybe why he was awarded a doctorate in Theology)

            The creation of the Christian Church is one of the most important stories in the development of the world’s history, yet one of the least understood.
            With a forensic, brilliant re-examination of all the key surviving texts of early Christianity, Geza Vermes illuminates the origins of a faith and traces the evolution of the figure of Jesus from the man he was – a prophet in the tradition of other Jewish holy men of the Old Testament – to what he came to represent: a mysterious, otherworldly being at the heart of the official state religion of the Roman Empire. Christian Beginnings pulls apart myths and misunderstandings to focus on the true figure of Jesus, and the birth of one of the world’s major religions.

            (Sounds quite a theological kind of history- which is maybe why he was awarded a doctorate in Theology)

          • Vermes renounced Christianity – not really the best guide then to understand it? After all, Righteousness is revealed from faith to faith.

  8. Andrew,
    How little you know.
    It is with a heaviness of heart that we are back where we started.
    How little you know of God who has made himself known and knowable: knowable in fellowship in communion, in Union.
    Knowable as Father,
    Knowable as Son
    Knowable as Holy Spirit.
    May you come to know Him as you are drawn to Christ Jesus in whom the fullness of God dwells, is. Jesus the same yesterday, today, forever, the author and finisher of our faith.
    In Christ alone, the Christ of Christianity , the living, Spirit giving, along with our Father give of life eternal, which if knowing him and the Father.

  9. Andrew, it not little, it’s all, a total sell out of all, including surrender of all to Him. That he is your all in all.

    • Yes Geoff. And we aim to move a little nearer to that each day.
      It was Archbishop Ramsay I think who said, when asked by a student at Oxford if he was saved:

      I have been…I am being…and I hope to be!

      Very wise words. A little more each day.

  10. …in this book we have the only story of reality that can bear the weight of our personal struggles for meaning and substance.

    This is exactly the kind of thing you shouldn’t say to the “biblically illiterate” if you want them to take you seriously.

    Trying to cast what’s essential a selfish belief in a noble, even heroic light makes you seem insincere and, to be frank, more than a little self-serving.

    Why do Christians believe in God? They want to go to heaven, that’s why. The basic transaction at the heart of Christianity is a selfish one: worship + obedience = eternal bliss.

    Be honest about this and you might be able to start a conversation with a “biblical illiterate” like me. Try and paint yourself as a noble hero and I’ll just roll my eyes and move on.

    • That’s not my motivation, nor the motivation of any I know. For me, feeling rather at see in life, I suddenly (not of my own seeking or choosing) discovered that there was someone who loved me and gave my life direction and meaning.


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