"Is the Bible True?" Three Kinds of Biblical Truth

Lately I've been in discussions with a number of people about the inerrancy of Scripture. It's by no means a new discussion, and emotions typically run deep when the subject comes up. Through these conversations I've been working out a succinct (and necessarily simplistic) way to express my understanding of Biblical truth. The question "Is the Bible True?" seems to me to mainly depend on what kind of truth one is looking for.

As an example, let's take the parable of the Prodigal Son. Is it true? Or does it contain truth? Is it true because it is in the Bible? Or is it in the Bible because it is true? It seems to me that one can find at least three different types of potential truth in this parable:

1. Is it true that Jesus actually taught this parable? Are the words recorded in Scripture truly Jesus' words, and are they truly verbatim?

2. Is the parable a true story? Were the characters in the story real people, and did the events truly happen as described?

3. Does the parable accurately describe God's relationship with humanity? Is what the parable teaches about God's grace and mercy true?

Please notice that none of these potential truths need be related. As is the case with all parables, they do not have to be true stories in order to teach truth. It does not matter if the Prodigal Son is a fictional character. Further, it is not even necessary that the recounting and attribution of the story be true. If it were in fact the Apostle John who taught this parable, and even if it were not a completely accurate transcription, that would not cause the "moral of the story" to become untrue.

In other words, as we nearly all agree, if number two is false, it does not follow that number three must also be false. In fact, if number three is true, it matters not if the others are. Either way, number three remains true. And if true, it is not its cannonization that makes it so. It is true of its own merit.

So when confronted with possible errors and contradictions in Scripture, we need not flee from them. We need not systematize them. We need not disguise them with adjectives like "apparent" or rebrand them as paradoxes. The Gospels do not need us to harmonize them. James and Paul do not need us to arbitrate their disputes. Job does not demand we believe in fire-breathing dragons. Genesis does not require creation science as an explanation. The truth of the Bible is not dependent on inerrancy or infallibility. The Bible can be inaccurate on a variety of levels and still be true where it matters most.

So what kind of truth matters most? Of the three potential truths listed, which is the most important? Put another way: If only one could be true, which one is mission critical?

I ask this on behalf of those who believe that the Bible is false because they have found it to be inaccurate... for the biologists who struggle with the creation story... the linguists who question the tower of Babel... the logicians who identify the contradictions... the historians who question the timelines... the multitude of college students who eventually disavow their faith after receiving a "higher" education... Must we force them to forego the opportunity of discovering the truth of the Bible by demanding that they accept it as true in every way? In doing so, are we not sabotaging truth itself?

My choice is number three. The truth in the Bible that matters most to me is what it teaches me about God. That is the truth I am looking for. And I believe it is there to be found by anyone who seeks it. The existence of inaccuracies, errors, and contradictions in the texts and translations do not sway me from this belief. Nor does my acceptance of them lower my regard for the Bible. It heightens it. If some passages of Scripture are not literally true, it may still be that many others are. In either case, the figurative truths remain unchanged. And the fact that these truths have remained available to us in Scripture despite its factual shortcomings makes the Bible that much more amazing to me. It is a testament of God's desire for us to know Him. It is His revelation of Himself to us. And it is in this light that I esteem Scripture so highly, and for this reason that I have dedicated my life to understanding it and living it out... in order to know Him, even as I am fully known.

I don't care if the Bible makes a poor science textbook or historical record. That's not what I find important.

Homespun Concert Series

Host: Ryan Sharp, Holly Sharp, Brittian Bullock

Date: Saturday, June 20, 2009

Time: 7:00pm - 11:00pm

The Green House next to the Historic Belmont Fire Department
908 SE 35th Ave
Portland, OR

Email: homespunconcertseries@gmail.com

My Top 10 Metal Albums, Part 3

OK, here's my number one. There was part of me that really wanted to list Van Halen's "1984" as a tie here. But after talking with a friend, he confirmed for me that I can't really categorize Van Halen as a metal band. They are hard rock, but not metal. And the prominence of keyboards on "1984" further solidifies this decision. But I think "1984" would probably make my all-time top ten list if genre was not a factor. Songs like "Jump", "Panama", "Hot for Teacher", and "I'll Wait" are approaching rock perfection. Eddie's guitar work on this album is his very best, even though albums "I" and "II" were groundbreaking at the time. When I think about Van Halen "I" coming out at a time (1978) when Joe Perry and Jimmy Page were considered the greatest guitarists, it must have been mind blowing. In fact, down right embarrassing! "I" was a rock guitar clinic, pointing the way to the future. And six years later "1984" would be the culmination of that potential, peaking at #2 (Michael Jackson's "Thriller" was riding #1 at the time) with the single "Jump" reaching #1.

But, "1984" is not a metal album. But this album DEFINITELY is:

1. Master of Puppets - Metallica (1986)
The greatest thrash metal album of all time. A masterpiece. When I first heard Battery I was shocked by how fast it was. It was hard for me to comprehend. But it didn't take long for Metallica to become my favorite band. Their blue collar, anti-corporate image was refreshing in a music scene dominated by polished glam posers. At a time when Vince Neil and Brett Michaels looked (and sang!) more like women than rock stars, James Hetfield was writing "Kill Bon Jovi" on the headstocks of his guitars. What more needs said? The songs on this album are epic. The title track has such incredible rhythm guitar playing that I still can't accurately cop it after over two decades of practice. Nevermind Kirk's leads! "Disposable Heroes" might be my favorite song on the album, with James' speed chunking Low E riff underneath Kirk's wah flavored upper register. And while Lars' drumming has taken a beating lately (pun?), his work on "Master" is some of the best thrash metal drumming you will ever hear. As a youth who spent his teenage years in institutions, I was very emotionally connected to the song Sanitarium. Lyrics like "Welcome to where time stands still. No one leaves and no one will..." and "Keep him tied. It makes him well. He's getting better. Can't you tell?" seemed to be all about me and my life at the time. "Just leave me alone..." As a band, and as an album, there are few as influential as Metallica and "Master of Puppets". If and when you find yourself testing out guitars and amps at your local guitar shop, "Enter Sandman" should NEVER be played. It is embarrassing for you and those who hear you. But "Master of Puppets" should ALWAYS be played. There is no truer test of a guitar rig, and your onlookers will smile and nod knowingly. There's a young kid in our youth group band who plays "Battery" and "Master" every week during warm-up. The influence of this album is still being felt by musicians at every age and level, and I think it will continue to be felt for decades to come. Deservedly, it ranks as my number one.

My Top Ten Albums, Part 2

Here is the follow-up to my previous post, the next four on my Top Ten favorite metal albums list. I am saving number one for next week, so you'll have to wait for that.

5. Vulgar Display of Power - Pantera (1992)
One word: aggression. Phil Anselmo's vocals have inspired a generation of screamo knock-offs. Many of them don't even know who he is. Dimebag Darrell's (RIP) guitar work was amazing. The crushing solid-state tone, the whammy pedal, the amazing harmonic squeals and dive-bombs. And the riffs. Oh, the riffs. Vinnie Paul's drumming on this album is accurate like a machine, only tighter and more brutal. Metallica's "Black Album" (1991) left a gaping hole in my thrash metal heart. "Vulgar Display of Power" filled it.

4. Number of The Beast - Iron Maiden (1982)
Every track is a classic. When I listen to this, I never have to skip ahead to a better song. I found this one a couple years after it was released, and I still listen to it regularly. The songwriting and musicianship is phenomenal. Although I have to admit that the slight tempo quirks at the beginning of "Hallowed Be Thy Name" still bug me. Maybe there's something endearing about imperfection? But then again, the drum intro for "The Prisoner" more than makes up for it. When I was incarcerated in my early 20s, I was first placed in a reception/diagnostic cell block, and I was miserable without music to play or listen to. So I recreated it for myself, trying to remember my favorite songs, singing the lyrics and guitar parts, tapping the drum parts with my feet and hands.... It was a challenge to try to recall every word, every fill, every riff, and the order and arrangements (verse, chorus, bridge, solo, etc.) from beginning to end. I think it actually strengthened my memorization skills. I remember many nights early on singing "Hallowed Be Thy Name" to myself on my bunk. "I'm waiting, in my cold cell, when the bell begins to chime. Reflecting on my past life. And it doesn't have much time..." A while back I watched a documentary of the Blues Angels precision flight team, and in it they showed their preflight meetings where the pilots gather together in a room and review every part of their show by memory, closing their eyes and visualizing each maneuver in order. After seeing that< I realized that's what I do with music. I did it in prison with Iron Maiden songs. And I still do it each week as I prep worship music for Sundays.

3. Appetite for Destruction - Guns n' Roses (1987)
"Sweet Child O' Mine" is still my favorite song of all time. It has everything. First, Slash's incredible opening guitar riff... then Duff's beautiful melody line on bass... then Izzy and Steven come riding in on the eighth notes... two teaser guitar solos and then a massive solo over the ending... When I was 15 lived in a youth shelter, and I used to lie in bed at night with headphones on and imagine myself in a band with my friends from the shelter... me playing the opening riff, Mike coming in on the bass, Rick and Danny coming in on the drums and guitar... To this day it still gives me chills. It's like a bottled endorphin rush, always there anytime I want it. Just put on the headphones, imagine us shelter kids growing up to be rock stars, and when the drums come in... Magic. I remember thinking that the band must have had two singers, because Axl's vocals on the opening track "Welcome to the Jungle" are completely different than the vocals on track two, "It's So Easy". He has incredible range, and he uses it. And he sounds like no one else. "Paradise City" is another great song with an incredibly frantic double time guitar solo ending. I met Slash at a music store once, and I had him sign my Les Paul case. To me, only David Gilmour can rival Slash when it comes to playing with emotion. No one has more emotion in their lead playing than Slash. His note choices and bends are lyrical and melodic. I can hum his solos practically note for note simply because they are so memorable. They're beyond catchy. And his tone and style are instantly recognizable. Appetite is a landmark in rock and roll history, blending classic rock, metal, and punk. It almost made number one for me.

2. Shout at the Devil - Mötley Crüe (1983)
This album changed my world. Before Shout, my favorite songs were "Centerfold" by The J. Geils Band and "Dirty Laundry" by Don Henley (still love those songs!). "Shout at the Devil" was my first metal album. Mötley Crüe made me a headbanger. Every song breathed adolescent rebellion. The opening monologue "In The Beginning" contains the quote "It has been written that those who have the youth have the future." Mötley Crüe definitely had me at 11 years old. I loved it so much the first time I heard it that I stole the cassette from my babysitter (obviously I couldn't be trusted home alone at that age)! One thing that still stands out to me today, apart from Tommy Lee's incredible drumming, is the uniqueness and originality of Mick Mars' guitar tone. Compared to the scooped midrange tone of his contemporaries like George Lynch and Warren DeMartini, Mick's tone is fat and full of midrange honk. It's actually bluesy. The Crüe would go on to explore this blues sensibility in their songwriting for Theater of Pain, influenced in part by Mick's background, and with some disappointing results. But Shout at the Devil stands as one of the hardest rocking albums of the early 80s. And more than that, for me, it was the soundtrack of my youth. "Looks That Kill", "Red Hot", "Too Young to Fall in Love", "Knock 'Em Dead Kid", and the title track... some of the greatest metal ever written. And their cover of "Helter Skelter" is better than the original. Yeah, I said it. Regardless of what Mötley Crüe has become over the years, what they were then hasn't changed. To me, they were the greatest heavy metal band in the world.

My Top Ten Metal Albums, Part 1

I've been reminiscing lately on iTunes listening to all my old favorite metal bands from the 80s and early 90s. So I decided to write my top ten list. Yeah, I know. Not a new idea. But still, everyone has a unique experience, and I think my list is somewhat unique. For me, and for a lot of us, the music we listened to in our teens is inextricably linked to our memories of those times. When I listen to music, I can't help but flashback to certain scenes and events, some good, some not so good. So in doing that, I felt compelled to journal a bit about it.

Remember, this is a list based on 80s and early 90s METAL. U2 doesn't fit in here. In fact, I hated U2 growing up. I thought their music was wimpy. So there. And this is only "Part 1" of the list. I have "Part 2" already done, but I'm saving it. :-)

10. Tribute - Ozzy Osbourne (1987)
Randy Rhoads was amazing (RIP). The guitar solo on "Mr. Crowley" is worth the price of the album by itself. These live recordings, released five years after the fact, showcase Ozzy and Randy at their Blizzard/Diary height. Ozzy had a way of surrounding himself with the best musicians. Randy was perhaps the best of all. As much as I love Sabbath, and with all respect to Ronnie James Dio, "Ozzy rules". At one point growing up I was living in a Methodist Children's Home and there was a talent show coming up that I wanted to be in. So I auditioned lip syncing "Goodbye To Romance" from this album. I had just been dumped by my girlfriend there at the home, and I so badly wanted to get on stage and "sing" that song to her, win the talent show, and win her back. But what were the chances of an Ozzy song passing the audition at a Methodist Home? None. So I had to do a Larry Norman song instead, "Why Don't You Look Into Jesus". I actually played keyboards and sang it live. I didn't win.

9. Under Lock and Key - Dokken (1985)
I was in an adolescent psychiatric treatment facility when I first saw the video for "In My Dreams" on MTV. The water splashing on the drums... the George Lynch tapping solo... There's an emotional attachment there because of where I was and what was happening to me at the time. I can picture the couches in the dayroom, the window into the nurses station, me sitting there escaping into the dream world of Headbanger's Ball. I still think Lynch had the greatest metal guitar tone. Thick and heavy. The standout track for me is "It's Not Love". The clean spanky finger plucking guitar intro is great. I love any song that asks "Why baby, Why?"

8. Night Songs - Cinderella (1986)
A great album. I remember buying it at the record store just because I thought the band looked cool on the cover. It was while listening to this album recently that I got the inspiration to write this post. I had forgotten what a good album it is. I have fond memories of riding in Curt's old Dodge Dart (the Hellmobile) listening to this cassette over and over. We were probably high at the time, which could be why I forgot until now! "Somebody Save Me..."

7. Reign In Blood - Slayer (1985)
I'm torn over this one. Took me a while to get used to it. Made me want to be a Satanist. Loved that Kerry King played "No Sleep Till Brooklyn" for the Beastie Boys. The original cassette had the full track listing repeated on both sides. Listen to the whole album, then turn it over and listen to the whole album again. I still have most of the lyrics memorized. There was something magnetic about listening to the hardest fastest band around. And it expanded my vocabulary. I had no idea what necrophobia was until Slayer came around. But all things considered, this is Slayer's best work by far, and Slayer stands as one of the top three thrash bands of all time, and I love thrash. So there you go.

6. III Sides to Every Story - Extreme (1992)
Perhaps one of the most underrated and under appreciated albums of all time. This concept album tells the three sides that every story has: Yours, Mine, and the Truth. Nuno Bettencourt is one the most proficient and soulful guitarists I have ever heard (a combination not easily found). But his songwriting, arranging, and production talents on this album are at genius level. Rock, Metal, Prog, Funk, Blues, Acoustic, Orchestral... it all gets tied together in a masterfully sweeping collage, one song transitioning and transforming into another, building and growing with each successive track. And on top of it all, the lyrics are very strongly influenced by Christian thought. The album is full of questions about God and man, our struggles with sin and doubt... the Bible is quoted throughout this record, Old Testament and New Testament, especially on side three, The Truth. Perhaps more than any record on my list, THIS is the album you MUST have. Forget what you think you know about Extreme. Their popular acoustic hits "More Than Words" and "Whole Hearted" do not even compare to this artistic achievement. And when you get it (do it now), sit down in front of a great pair of speakers and listen to it from beginning to end, as a concept album is meant to be listened to. You'll be blown away.

Did I forget your favorite? Stay tuned for "Part 2".

Facebook = The End Of The World

Our Lead Pastor Steve just joined Facebook! A momentous occasion. Here is the welcome message I wrote on his wall:

Congratulations on finally entering the virtual community of superficial relationship where substantive human contact and interaction is replaced by one-liner text messages and the almighty "poke". Now all you need is a blog and a Twitter account and you'll be fully equipped to engage the global village at it's shallowest level.

And don't forget the Facebook app for your Blackberry. To be the most ineffective at maintaining these relationships, you must be mobile so you can be distracted by other things at the same time. This helps to make sure that your real life relationships become as compromised as your online ones.

Welcome to the end of the world. :-)