Now and again people ask me, “Amos, where do you stand on the Bible?” This is a great question, which I will attempt to answer here in a few concise sentences.
The question I hear underneath that question is, “What is our continuing testament?” “What compass do we use to navigate the turbulent waters of constant change?”
For me the compass is the Gospels. I compare the Gospels to Phoenix real estate. Phoenix real estate closest to the heart of the city is the most valuable. The further we get from the city center, the less valuable the real estate becomes. I hold the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) to be the Bible’s most valuable real estate. If we distill the Gospels to their essence we come to Mark, the earliest of the Gospels, and if we distill Mark we come to Jesus.
Following is my short-take on the Gospels and on Jesus:
When it comes to the Gospels people usually take two unfortunate extreme positions. The first is profound skepticism about the authenticity of the Gospels. The second is the claim that the Gospels are error free. Contrary to these two extremes, I think the Gospels by-and-large describe actual events (in the context of Greco-Roman biographies of the time). There are exaggerations and sometimes embellishment, yet overall they’re fairly accurate depictions of awesome events.
One of the reasons I draw the conclusion that the Gospels are authentic is forensic evidence, such as The Magdalen Papyrus in Oxford, England, which shows an earlier composition date for Matthew’s gospel than previously hypothesized. This papyrus strengthens the argument that Matthew and Mark were written by eyewitnesses. Or, if not written by eyewitnesses, they were at least written within very close proximity to the life of Jesus and based on firsthand spoken and written accounts.
When it comes to Jesus, I scrap the two convenient boxes that liberals and conservatives try to fit Jesus into. In this regard I am an independent. Liberals make Jesus a historical human being (drop the Divinity with a capital D). Conservatives make Jesus Divine and the only way to God (drop the humanity with a lower case h). Both are reductionist and both flatten the mystery of the incarnation. Christian Mystics, on the other hand, are open to ambiguity, complexity, and holding opposites in creative tension. They behold the multi-dimensional mysterious truth of the Jesus Paradox: at once God and human!
The bottom line of all this for me: The inclusive Love of Jesus is all in all!