My Response to Rick Warren’s “Jesus Trusted the Bible. You Should Too.”

Rick Warren wrote: Jesus Trusted the Bible. You Should, Too.

I trust Jesus and the bible. Unfortunately, Warren’s article is built on a common leap of logic – the notion that what we know and believe about Jesus is somehow separate from the bible itself. It is the bible (NT) that informs our ideas about what Jesus believed about the bible (OT). Which is sort of like me saying, “I’m trustworthy. Just ask me.” Skeptics are not persuaded by such an argument – it just sounds silly. And, faith and doubt are not incompatible. “Lord I believe. Help my unbelief!”

Why does Rick feel it necessary to call us to a faith tenet that scripture does not call us to hold? The claims he makes regarding Jesus’ understanding of scripture are reasonable, but by no means exclusive, and certainly not explicitly elucidated in the New Testament itself. What is clear is that the New Testament presents Jesus as living and teaching as though the Hebrew Scriptures were authoritative in his life and should be in ours. Poetry and history can most definitely be authoritative, and are genres of writing that can and do change lives. Again, Warren here relies on a common false choice. Which again leaves seekers and skeptics shaking their collective heads at such a weak argument. I respect Rick, and know he has done better.

Yes, the New Testament shows us that Jesus trusted the God revealed in the Hebrew Scriptures and Apocrypha or Deuterocanonical books (those written after Daniel and before the birth of Jesus – from which ideas like bodily resurrection and the existence of angels were most clearly derived by the Pharisees, with whom Jesus agreed doctrinally. Yes, as Jesus is revealed in the canonical Gospels, he taught from those texts. He also taught from them in a way that most people around him – the religious authorities, experts and scholars in particular – did not recognize or understand as “true”. He believed the bible in a way that no one else in his generation seemed to. At least that is what I think the Gospels suggest, given that no one recognized him as the Messiah, and no one understood what was unfolding to be a part of God’s redemptive work.

The New Testament then was written by people who trusted Jesus as the fullest revelation of God among human kind. Through their own writings inspired by the Holy Spirit, through their own faith in the God whom Jesus trusted and revealed, they shared Jesus with us so that we “who have not seen” might “yet believe.” (John 20:29; 1 Peter 1:8). Our trust in the bible precedes our trust in Jesus, to a certain degree, because it is through the bible that we come to know most fully who Jesus is. It is the bible which serves as our lens of faith through which we see and interpret our world, our lives, and existence itself. In the process we may remember that the bible itself was also written through other lenses not our own – from other times, cultures and worldviews. So what then does it mean for us to trust the bible? and to trust Jesus? That is the journey of faith. And it is not helped by shallow arguments like Rick Warren’s in “Jesus trusted the Bible. You should too.

Confusion and Anger look similar

A story: recently we were working with a young homeless man who is here in the area, living out of his car. A local shelter we know to be a very nice facility, successful in helping folks make progress on their goals and get to a more stable place in their lives. We took him there for a tour, during which he was very quiet. They told him that they have beds available, and would be able to do the intake process that afternoon. I was very surprised that he did not want to stay, and tried to be sure he understood what was being offered, which he said he did, but was not interested at that time.
This left/leaves me confused and frustrated for him that he is choosing to live in his car rather than get good help from good people in a safe, warm environment. A few minutes later, the young man (quite boldly, I think) said, “Are you angry with me?” After reflecting a moment, I told him no, just confused and frustrated for him in this situation. Then I said, “Maybe confused and angry look similar on me.” to which a friend with us immediately said, to me and to him, “Yes, they do. Yes, they do.” What an interesting revelation/awareness for me. Amazing the gifts that others have to give to us, even when they seem to be the ones in need! Thinking more about this later, I decided that I did have some anger around the situation, but it is for him, not at him. I’m angry that the world can be so cruel to someone that at 20 they are homeless and convinced that no one loves them.
So I roll back through my scrapbook of memories – unproductive relationships and moments of significant miscommunication. When have I been frustrated and confused, or even had a sort of righteous indignation about a situation, but not anger toward the person or people? But what people perceive is that I am angry with them. How troubling that is!
May God grant me the wisdom and power to be renewed, restored and reconciled. And if you’ve got insights to share, I’d gratefully receive them.