Where you start makes a difference

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By John Barnhart

    A story on WorldNetDaily, an on-line news site, caught my eye early last week. The title was “Why can’t Christians unite to change America’s ways?”

    The story noted that there are people who claim to be Christians working as activists for both conservative and leftist causes. It contained the results of a poll conducted this year by Bliss Institute of Applied Politics at the University of Akron in partnership with Public Religion Research. The poll revealed some significant differences.

    The difference between the two groups that I found most striking was their attitude toward the Bible. Among conservative activists, the survey found that 48 percent agreed with the proposition that the Bible is “Word of God, Literal.” Another 36 percent agreed that the Bible is “Word of God, Not Literal.”

    It’s impossible to be sure what the latter group meant when they chose the “Not Literal” option as I have no way to talk to any of them. I think they probably chose this because they believe there are numerous passages in which the Bible uses figurative, symbolic language. This means that 84 percent of self-described Christians who are involved in conservative causes believe the Bible is God’s Word.

    Only 3 percent of those who are left-wing activists chose the “Word of God, Literal” option and only 19 percent chose “Word of God, Not Literal.” The largest number of these self-described Christians, 36 percent, chose “Contains word of God.” Only 10 percent of the conservative activists chose this. Seventeen percent of the leftists chose “Ancient book of legends,” an option none of the conservatives selected.   

    St. Paul wrote in II Timothy 3:16 that “All Scripture is inspired by God” (New American Standard Bible). The English Standard Version rendering of this passage translates the Greek word θεOeπνευστος (Theopneustos), which means God-breathed, as “breathed out by God.”

    St. Peter, in I Peter 1:21, wrote, concerning how God breathed out the Scripture, that “men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” In the New Testament, the Greek word πνεμα (pneuma) can mean either “breath” or “spirit.”

    The traditional Christian view of the Bible’s inspiration is that God, through the Holy Spirit, moved in the Bible’s writers. Although their individual writing styles show through, the result was God’s Word down to the exact word choice. He also preserved the writers from error. To believe otherwise would make God the author of error.

    If you subscribe to the traditional Christian view of the Bible’s inspiration, then the Bible will define your basic concept of right and wrong. Its teachings will impact your world view and be a major factor in determining how you think things ought to be.

    The Bible’s teachings won’t impact the world view of those who believe the Bible either contains the word of God or is a book of ancient legends. In fact, the world view of those who think the Bible contains the word of God, along with their basic concepts of right and wrong, will determine what parts of the Bible they consider to be the word of God, and what parts they reject.

     Those who accept the orthodox Christian view of the Bible’s divine inspiration will come to different conclusions, about what ought to be changed, from those who do not accept this view. In some cases, those who believe the traditional Christian view will become involved in causes that are directly opposed to the causes in which those who reject this view become involved.

    This answers the question of why people who say they are Christians can’t unite to change America’s ways.