Many Christians now preach a message of "Dalmatian Theology"
Dalmatian theology - The Bible is inspired in spots and you are
inspired to spot the spots.
Advanced Dalmatian Theology - Just like Dalmatian theology,
except God is also changing spots and adding spots, and only telling
liberal / progressive Christians.
Saying the Bible isn't fully inspired by God may seem like a humble
premise, but it actually makes several strong (and unfounded) claims.
It implies that God couldn't, or wouldn't deliver His word to us in a
reliable way, and that despite God's alleged failings, flawed humans are
able to discern which parts were inspired and which parts were not.
Are we to believe that humans are to correct for God's alleged errors?
Why is this a serious problem? It is hard enough to follow the
teachings of the Bible without having "Christians" pick and choose what
they want to believe in. Worse yet, they ignore parts of scripture
so they can teach that the opposite is not only acceptable but
If someone claims the Bible is only partially inspired, ask how they
feel about John 3:16 or one of their favorite verses. If they
claim it is inspired, how do they know? There are plenty of
reasons and resources to defend the accuracy and integrity of the
original writings. We don't need to get sloppy and just follow the
parts we like.
How to Read the Bible
The Bible is the inspired
word of God. Certainly the creator of the universe and all its splendor
ended up with the Bible as He wanted it to be! The theme of the Bible is
consistent - a perfectly loving, merciful and just God reaching out to
the humans He made in His image, wanting them to exercise their free
will to accept the sacrifice He made on their behalf in the form of
However, the Bible is
composed of sixty-six books, written by dozens of people in 3 languages
over a period of 1500 years, so it isn't always simple to understand
(especially when looking at just a few verses). Therefore, it is helpful
to have some guidelines. Here are some suggestions to keep in mind when
studying the Bible.
Read 1-3 chapters at a time
Question it - What portion stands out to me? Why?
- Is there an example for me to follow?
- Is there an error for me to avoid?
- Is there a duty for me to perform?
- Is there a promise for me to claim?
- Is there a sin for me to confess?
- Plan it – make a plan for how you will use it
- Pray it – pray scripture back to God
- Share it – helps others, and helps us to remember it
(note: the section above came from a
sermon by James MacDonald on Walk in the Word)
- Let the clear explain the unclear (interpret difficult passages in
light of straightforward passages)
- Read individual passages in light of all scripture
between descriptive and prescriptive passages. Descriptive
passages tell about something that happened, but they don't
necessarily mean they apply to all of us. For example, the
Bible tells of King David's adultery and act of murder but this
obviously isn't an example to follow. In the same way,
miraculous situations described in the Bible don't necessarily
happen to each of us. Prescriptive passages such as "love your
neighbor" do tell us how we should act.
- Distinguish between passages regarding events/messages pertaining to
a particular time vs. those meant to be universal or timeless
- Always consider the context of a passage. As the Stand To
Reason organization says, "Never
read a Bible verse."
- Cultural and social
- Who was it written for?
- Literary context
- Passages before / after
- Overall theme of the Bible (creating, perfect, loving God who desires
a relationship with his creation, etc.)
- Don't assume that the unexplained is not explainable
- Don't assume the Bible is guilty until proven innocent. There are
many outstanding apologetic works that show that the Bible is the
inerrant word of God. Here is a quick overview of a "MAPS"
acronym provided by the Christian Research Institute. See
M-A-P-S to Guide You through Biblical
Reality for more details.
- Many eye witness accounts
- Most books were written within short time of actual events (much less
likely to have legendary characteristics)
- Thousands of manuscripts, closely dated to events. Far superior to
other ancient documents that are readily accepted as fact.
- Dead Sea scrolls
- We are constantly getting more and more archeological proof of what is
recorded in the Bible, and there has yet to be a finding disproving
something in the Bible.
Prophecy - Incredible, perfect accuracy of hundreds of specific
and general prophecies
Statistics - The incredible accuracy, cohesiveness and
consistency of writings of people from different languages and
continents over thousands of years would be statistically impossible
without divine intervention.
- Don't try to read it from front to back. Genesis is a great book
with many exciting stories, but you can get bogged down in the
ceremonial laws in a book like Leviticus, for example. Start with
one of the Gospels (John is a popular one) and work from there.
- Don't base teachings on obscure passages
- Remember that partial reports aren't false reports. For example, if
one gospel mentions two angels at the tomb of Jesus, while another
only mentions one angel (but doesn't state there was only one
angel), then this is not a conflict.
- The original text was without error. There have been errors in
translations (though very few, and fewer still which changed the
meaning of the text).
- Latter revelation supersedes previous revelation
- Don't assume that the Bible approves of all its records. The
historical portions of the Bible are accurate descriptions of
events, even though God may not have approved of the events. Also,
some Psalmists expressed real human feelings that weren't
necessarily what God wanted them to feel. The Bible doesn't gloss
over human failings. In fact, it shows that even the greatest heroes
of the Bible had major flaws and were sinners in need of a savior,
as we all are.
- Remember that the Bible uses non-technical, everyday language.
- Round numbers are not false. The Bible sometimes uses them just as
- Don't assume that if you can't understand something that it can't be
true. As God pointed out in the book of Job, there are many
mysteries that we can't understand or don't need to understand. To
try to completely understand God would be like trying to teach
calculus to a baby.
- Remember that there are various literary devices in the Bible -
e.g., history, poetry, letters, gospels, prophecy, stories, romance,
- When in doubt, consult a commentary, study Bible, pastor, or anyone
with more experience in Bible studies.
There are many excellent articles of the reliability of the
Bible in books or on the Internet. See the
Apologetics links here. Please note that the writings of
Dr. Norman Geisler were used extensively in creating the list above. His
book, The Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics, is a
particularly good book to read to understand the evidence and reasoning
for the reliability of the Bible.
Printed with permission
from the authors of How To Talk About Jesus Without Freaking Out
First and Always: Ask God
for understanding and insight. (Some call this prayer.) It was His
idea to write the Bible in the first place, so we might as well ask
Him to help us to understand it!
What to Know: The Bible
is a collection of sixty-six books written by numerous people who
have had firsthand encounters with the living, personal God. It is
split into two parts: the Old Testament and the New Testament. The
Old Testament includes the account of Creation, the history of
Israel, and many prophecies of the coming Messiah. The New Testament
gives God's plan for man and the fulfillment of every Messianic
prophecy in the person of Jesus Christ.
- Where to begin: The best
place to begin reading is in the Gospels - the first four books of
the New Testament. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John give firsthand
accounts of the life of Jesus. We recommend that a new reader begin
with the Gospel of John, the clearest overview of the Bible. Then go
back to Matthew and read the entire New Testament, followed by the
for Bible History
GENESIS: If you're a
person who must start at the beginning, Genesis tells how God showed
Himself in the creation of the world and the birth of the nation
Israel. In Genesis 3:15, God foreshadows the future revelation of
Himself in His son, the Messiah. Its fulfillment is best described
in the book of John.
GOSPEL OF JOHN: This is a
great summary of the life of Jesus. It's only about twenty-five
pages long. The entire Gospel is best summed up in chapter three.
EXODUS: Moses leads the
people out of Egypt to
Mount Sinai where God gives
him the Ten Commandments. In the book of Exodus, the celebration of
the Passover foreshadows Jesus.
- ACTS: Keeping in mind the
Israelites' struggle to return to the Promised Land, read how the
faith of this same people was established with the coming of Jesus
as their Messiah.
Bible for Theology
ROMANS: Paul answers the
"big" questions of Christian life, including the issues of hope,
strength, sin, perseverance, and grace.
PHILIPPIANS: A letter
written to new Christians on how to lead a life that is pleasing to
terrific instruction letter on Christian conduct.
HEBREWS: See how
throughout the history of the nation of Israel God has always
rewarded those who persevere in their life and in their belief in
- REVELATION: Read only
chapters 1 and 22 if you are a new Christian. In these two chapters
Jesus talks about His return. The rest of Revelation is pretty much
heavy-duty prophecy told in allegories and images.
Wisdom and Help
A PROVERB A DAY KEEPS THE FOOL AWAY:
One of the best success manuals ever in print is in the Old
Testament. Proverbs - the book of wisdom - has thirty-one chapters.
In addition to your daily devotions, it's a wonderful idea to read
the chapter that corresponds to the day of the month in which you
PSALMS - THE PRAYER BOOK OF ANCIENT CHRISTIANS:
The Psalms have been used as a prayer and songbook for Christians
since the days of its author, King David. If you want to learn how
to pray, Psalms is a great place to go.
There is Something
where to find some of the best biographies:
- Adam and Eve (Genesis 1-6)
- Noah (Genesis 6-9)
- Abraham (Genesis 11-25)
- Jacob (Genesis 25-39)
- Joseph (Genesis 37-50)
Moses (Exodus - Deuteronomy)
- Ruth (the book of Ruth)
- David (1 Samuel 16; 1 Kings
- Solomon (1 Kings 1-11, Proverbs
- Esther (the book of Esther)
- Job (the book of Job)
- And most importantly: Jesus (Matthew - John)