A Modern Believer

I am a modern.

Somewhere deep within me exist biases and prejudices towards modern and Western ways of thinking. As new information about the world is observed and discovered, it is perfectly natural to me that our models of the world would change and shift to fit the new information. Our models are in flux; they are only the best we have now. This is the scientific method. This is The Fixation of Belief.

But, also, I am a Bible-believer. I receive the Holy Scriptures, and I receive whatever they teach. I receive them as the very Word of God, meaning the models contained in them are not up for debate. Whatever truths are contained in them, are true forever. No analysis, no new information can change them or make them better.

Of course, this is not at all to say that new information can’t inform and change our understanding of Scripture. The 19th and 20th centuries brought vast amounts of new archaeological information that has altered our interpretations of many, many parts of the Bible. But it only changed what we think the texts are saying, not (at least for me) the underlying conviction that whatever the text does in fact say, is true.

Consider with me the risk of that conviction for a moment. I have committed myself to an unbelievably anti-modern proposition—that whatever is in this Book is true. What if I find something inside of it that… rubs me the wrong way? That seems… wrong. Maybe even something that horrifies me. I have decided that rather than adjusting the text to follow my belief, I will adjust my belief to follow the text (all the while keeping in mind the above paragraph). This is something a modern would never do. The idea is absurd. The text is wrong, therefore evolve past it into better models.

I am self-consciously modern and mostly approve of the modernity within myself, and yet at the same time, I look at this Book and declare, “No matter what it says, I believe that what it says is true.” This is surely a profound tension. I marvel that the incoherence somehow feels perfectly comfortable. Perhaps it is truly the case that perfect love casts out fear—when I trust the Author, the feeling of risk dissipates.

There are libraries more to be said on this topic, and these short paragraphs are deeply incomplete. I trust your wisdom to ponder this Kierkegaard-esque contemplation well, with nuance and qualifications and new, excellent connections.

3 thoughts on “A Modern Believer

  1. Very interesting paradox. Thanks for sharing with me!!

    On Mon, Aug 30, 2021, 9:07 AM Thoughts of a Novice wrote:

    > Tim Schwab posted: ” I am a modern. Somewhere deep within me exist biases > and prejudices towards modern and Western ways of thinking. As new > information about the world is observed and discovered, it is perfectly > natural to me that our models of the world would change and” >


  2. What if your whole life you’ve misunderstood what it is saying? For instance, what if you suddenly realize that Paul is being completely ironic in the opening verses of Romans, ch. 13? Or what if you suddenly, against everything you were taught, realize that there are indeed two different creation stories at the beginning of Genesis? In other words, you believe what the Bible says is true, but then you can’t really be sure of what the Bible is saying. What do you do then?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Just as there is a gap between Kant’s noumenal world and phenomenal world, I easily acknowledge the gap between any text’s meaning and that text’s understood meaning. (To say nothing of the Death of the Author or Wittgenstein or the entire fields of study that discuss the idea of meaning in a text.) The Bible itself acknowledges this in 2 Peter 3:15-16. And as a good Presbyterian, I am a big fan of the qualifications around Scripture and Scripture’s interpretation offered in the Westminster Confession.

      There are many places in the Bible that have unclear meanings, and not just individuals but the entire Church has gotten passages wrong for centuries before reversing opinion. I believe this especially heartily as a son of the Reformation. Therefore, it is inevitable that there are parts of Scripture that I think I understand, but about which I am in fact completely wrong. Apothegm 42:24 seems to fit quite nicely here. “Wisdom is not at a loss when the truth is unclear. Wisdom is able to act within ambiguity.” What do I do in ambiguity? Attempt to act with wisdom, same as always. And also, pursue scholarship, in an effort to reduce ambiguity.

      The strange and radical thing in my eyes is that this ambiguity doesn’t detract from me receiving the Bible as the Word of God. 🤷‍♂️


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