I think we must keep remembering that, aside from the technicalities one encounters in Bible translation and interpretation, God is able to give us an accurate understanding of Scripture to the ultimate end that we imitate Him by living lives that are characterized by the ‘fruit of the Spirit’ in a genuine way. Jesus provides a thorough background for these deeper spiritual realities in His life and teachings and most importantly in His death and resurrection. When a person gives up everything in service to God and humanity to the point where it costs him/her everything, it speaks with an ultimate sense of genuineness and authority. I have quoted this before, but I think that Jesus’ words in John 5:39-40 speak into this: “You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.” This ‘spirit of the law’ runs as a powerful and common theme through all the conventional NT writings and can equally be discerned from those of the OT.
What Jesus is saying is that the ‘Bible’ is empty if it is approached purely from an academic perspective and that the real key to unlocking its power lies in knowing the God it points to. I do not hold to a trinitarian view of God and to the deity of Jesus because these realities have been proven academically, but because they appear consistently (in a way that could never have been engineered) in the total body of the Scriptures (when one takes them at face value), in a way that is integral to my experience (and that of so many many other genuine believers whose transformational living has impacted the world powerfully for the good) and therefore my, and our collective understanding of its presence there.
I realize full well, that anyone could argue what I’ve said above academically and philosophically, but our faith is not fundamentally of that substance, it is exactly what it claims to be: a faith in an infinite God who’s ways are above ours and who ultimately can never be known fully, except for the most part through Jesus and His Spirit.
What plausible alternative do we have to this understanding of life and the Scriptures? In my opinion, not much. I would far rather live a life of faith and submission to God where my brokenness and sin are effectively dealt with through repentance and forgiveness in mystical union with the infinite “I AM” (who Jesus Himself says he is too, though distinct from the Father) by virtue of His Spirit within me as the crown of His creation – which in this fallen and broken world leads me to the self-same sacrificial death of love for those around me who are lost in their own sinfulness and brokenness (real Gospel ministry!)– manifesting the fruits of the Spirit. I would rather have this be my reality than anything else that humanity has on offer – seriously.
I don’t believe for one minute that YAHWEH (“I AM”) or Jesus, or their Spirit need the Bible to prove their reality. In fact the Bible doesn’t do it anyway. The Bible simply assumes their reality and guides us accordingly, through existential narrative and the Spirit, into a restored existence with God. We need that restoration not because God made a mistake in creating us, but that we have taken the perfection of what He created us in and corrupted it by using that freedom for ourselves at the expense of the rest of humanity and the cosmos – the antithesis of genuine love. Restoration to YAHWEH is restoration to love and restoration to wholeness in a way that absolutely nothing else in all the world speaks to – no religion or spiritual or secular philosophy comes close to the kind of existential reality presented in the Gospel -the ‘good news’ of hope and restoration to YAHWEH through Jesus… and the Bible, no mater how, technically, it may be associated with the various complexities of translation and interpretation does no less justice to the spiritual reality it points to. No one who reads the Bible properly (at face value with a good contextual grounding) could really say that any of the mainline Christian translations (or even paraphrases, I’m convinced) ultimately detract from the fundamental spiritual truth of the Gospel.
Only a genuinely regenerated heart (i.e. one who is in union and communion with YAHWEH through His Spirit – which is available to everyone) can truly interpret the Scriptures. No academic attempt to ‘crystallize the teachings of the Bible’ will suffice, because the Bible is not ultimately about the right teaching or doctrine per se – and those who view it like this will be looking for those doctrines till the day they realize the truth or die-, it is about worship. It is all and only and always about worship – and the Bible, despite the technicalities, when revealed by God’s Spirit to the believer always inspires genuine worship. God is to be worshiped, not understood, He is YAHWEH, the Great “I AM” and He is who He is and allows us to be who we are in relationship with Him. When we live outside of that relationship, we are nothing more than limited, selfish, angry, depressed, addictive, controlling, abusive human beings (and unregenerate professing Christians are the worst!) who still carry within our hearts the image, the essence of YAHWEH, and who by His grace and through surrender to His will, are lovingly and powerfully and progressively restored by Him for our ultimate perfection and His ultimate glory and enjoyment – that is why He created us and everything else in the first place.
This is the essence of the Biblical narrative and it answers all of humanity’s issues more powerfully and thoroughly than anything else this sad world -full of beautiful and loved people who need help- has to offer. Whereas I don’t believe that the Bible is God’s only form of revelation to us, I don’t believe that any other form will contradict this foundational spiritual truth which the Scriptures have progressively preserved for thousands of years without the help of a single textual critic.