My Thoughts re: Preston Shipp’s Recent Twitter Thread

See: Preston Shipp – Twitter Feed (@preston_shipp) – Aug 4, 2022

Note: My thoughts, comments and questions are found in italics under each of Preston’s tweets in “quotation marks.”

I appreciate so much of what Preston is communicating here! My responses are not meant so much as a critique, because I know how limiting 140 characters are when it comes to professing something so important and profound. In fact, since Twitter is such a popular social media format, I’m glad to see Preston (and others) willing to states his convictions about the nature of “the Bible.”   

“I think the Bible is a collection of diverse literature, authored and compiled by pre-scientific human beings, writing in different cultures and languages and for different purposes, trying to make sense of life with a God that they, and we, will never comprehend.”

  • The Bible is not singular but plural, and always has been, since its inception.
  • Prior to being “the Bible” these texts were individual texts, sometimes complied in small groupings, e.g., “the law/Pentateuch,” “the Psalms,” “the Gospels,” or “the letters of Paul.”

“Not everything the Bible says about God is true. While the authors were inspired to write about God, they got some things wrong in their attempts to understanding a God we’ll never grasp. But sometimes the Bible contains truths so beautiful and profound that we memorize them.”

  • What does he mean by “were inspired”?
  • Perhaps, “a God we’ll never fully grasp.”
  • How can we know which portraits of God are “true” and which are not?
  • Because certain statements and concepts found in the biblical texts appeal to many of its readers as “so beautiful and profound that we memorize them,” does that mean those statements reveal “truths” about God’s nature, working or will?

“Discerning what is helpful and good and true in the Bible from what is harmful and destructive is the work of communities of faith, led by the God of whom the biblical authors write. We trust that God is present in the ongoing conversation about God.”

  • Wouldn’t every (or at least almost every) “community of faith” claim that its efforts to discern the “help and good and true in the Bible from what is harmful and destructive” is being “led by the god of whom the biblical authors write”? Yet, these communities of faith often come to very diverse and even contradictory conclusions about which things are “good and true” vs. which are “harmful and destructive”.

“So, we give thanks for the Bible, but we do not worship it. The Bible, like the Sabbath, was made for human beings. It is a wonderful sign pointing to God, imperfectly of course, and there are other signs we also pay attention to.”

  • I think it would be important to note again, “The Bible…was made ‘by human beings’ for “human beings.”
  • It is only, IMO, “sometimes” a wonderful sign pointing to God.
  • What are these “other signs” to which we must pay close attention?

“We respect the Bible, but we do not serve it. We learn from it, but we keep it in its proper place. After all, many faithful Christians either existed before the Bible was assembled, have been unable to read, or lived before there was widespread access to Bibles.”

  • I think this a very important point that most “Bible believing” individuals and faith communities overlook. The Bible as we (Protestants) know it, didn’t even exist in the 66 book form we (Protestants) consider “inspired” until the Reformation.
  • The Bible in any of its many previous forms and versions was not accessible to the majority of believers/followers because (1) a copy of a Bible, or any portion thereof, had to be copied by hand and was thus tremendously expensive, and (2) most were not literate to the degree they could read biblical literature, no matter into which language it was written/translated.
  • Yet, faith existed, as people put their trust and made their commitment to the God of whom they were told by those who did have access to, and the ability to read and interpret, the Bible.

“We also recognize that God is not a Christian. God is not the captive of any one tradition. Other traditions contain profound truths about God, and we’re secure enough to learn from them, even as we seek God through our own scriptures, sacraments, rituals, etc.”

  • There are innumerable Gods proclaimed and believed in among the 7.5 billion people living today. There is the God of the Jews (“the LORD God”); there is the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ; there is Allah (“the Merciful One”) of Islam; etc., etc., etc.
  • How do we know that any tradition, our own included, “contain profound truths about God”?
  • I agree, that we should engage in respectful dialogue, discussion and even debate with others about their understanding of God’s nature, working and will. But if we, who call ourselves Christians, can’t hardly find the humility to do that within our broader faith tradition, how will it be possible to do so with others of dramatically different faith traditions?
  • I also don’t think, the ability to do so requires “security.” Rather, it requires “humility.” Being “secure” in our faith seldom leads to opportunities to learn from others. Instead, it results in opportunities to teach others, seeking more to be heard than to hear. Humility, however, motivates us to listen first before we speak.

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