In his provocative new book, “Making Sense of the Bible: Rediscovering the Power of Scripture Today,” Adam Hamilton challenges the traditional Christian understanding of Scripture. As the pastor of the largest United Methodist congregation in the United States, Hamilton desires to teach a whole new generation (especially agnostics and “seekers”) how to properly understand God’s Word. Unfortunately, this “new” approach which seeks to help people “appreciate” the Bible is not really new. It turns out to be just a rediscovery of “old” theological liberalism. And like all liberals, the core issue Hamilton confronts has to do with inspiration of Scripture.
Here are some quotes from the author, followed by my comments:
In 2 Timothy 3:16 Paul writes, “All Scripture is inspired by God…” Christians often assume they know what this means, but Paul seems to have created the word “inspired.” It does not appear in the Greek language before this and is used nowhere else in the Bible. It literally means “God-breathed” but Paul doesn’t go on to explain precisely what he means. It is a metaphor, and metaphors are not precise. Push them too far and they break down.
Hamilton goes right for the jugular with this assertion, attacking one of the clearest statements on inspiration in the Bible. He dismisses this theological truth by choosing to believe that: (1) The Apostle Paul one his own made up the word “inspired” and, (2) He was just being metaphorical. So, consistent with theological liberalism, Hamilton says that we really can’t know what the word “inspired” means. I wonder what he does with II Peter 1:21, which states that prophets spoke “as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”
When I think of inspired, I think of God-influenced. This leaves open a variety of ways in which the biblical authors were influenced by God.
So, Hamilton decides that his definition of “inspired” is more like being “influenced.” As lovers of God, they simply wrote what they wanted to write, just like any modern Christian author. His bottom line, then, is that the Bible isn’t Special Revelation at all. It has a great message, but one certainly can’t expect that it’s inerrant, or certainly not the infallible Word of life. “Inspired,” in Hamilton’s view, is what anyone is who thinks about God.
My premise is that the Bible is the words of people who were influenced by God, and yet who were also shaped by the times in which they lived.
There it is! To this very popular Methodist preacher, the Bible is a collection of human words, not the Word of God. These were human thoughts that were influenced by God as well as by the times in which the writers lived.
When you read more of Hamilton’s thoughts (which I don’t advise), it becomes crystal clear why he rejects the inspiration of the Bible. He just doesn’t believe that “his” God behaves the way the Scripture describes. Here’s just one example:
The violence attributed to God in the Bible is a serious issue that Christians must address. It is inconsistent with the character of God described in many places in the Old Testament, and certainly inconsistent with the Word of God revealed in Jesus Christ who calls his followers to love their enemies. In the Hebrew Bible we find God putting to death 70,000 Israelites to punish David for taking a census. We have God commanding Joshua to slaughter every man woman and child in 31 entire kingdoms in the Canaan as a kind of offering to God. This is what, today, we would call genocide. God commands priests to burn their daughters alive if they become prostitutes. I cannot imagine God calling me to burn one of my children alive, regardless of what they had done.
In the end, people who reject the inspiration of the Bible just don’t like or agree with what it clearly teaches. But when you’re an influential pastor like Hamilton, it is smarter to simply “soften” inspiration into the idea of “influence” in order to make the Bible easier to handle. The sad truth is that this mega-church pastor is writing under the wrong influence as presents his theologically liberal views. No one reading his book will “rediscover the power of Scripture,” since he attempts to strip it of all its true authority!
Praise God that the Bible IS the Word of God, and is the power of God unto salvation through Jesus Christ. The only way agnostics or the confused who Hamilton seeks to reach will have their minds renewed is by embracing the Bible as the inspired Word of God!