As pastor of Church of the Resurrection, Adam Hamilton has the honor of leading the largest United Methodist congregation in the United States. More than 8,600 attend services each week, and the Kansas congregation is considered by many to be America’s most influential mainline Protestant church. But with the release of his provocative new book, “Making Sense of the Bible: Rediscovering the Power of Scripture Today,” Hamilton is becoming known as someone who is challenging traditional understandings the Bible.
Here we discuss the message of his book and how he navigates the most difficult and debated passages.
RNS: You believe the Bible is divinely “inspired.” Can you explain what you mean exactly?
AH: The biblical authors were people like us. Christians do not hold, as Muslims do, that our holy book was dictated by God. The biblical authors wrote in particular times, for particular audiences, out of a particular context. Part of rightly interpreting Scripture is reading it in the light of what we can know about its historical and cultural context, the author’s purposes in writing and knowing something about the people they were writing to.
In 2 Timothy 3:16 Paul writes, “All Scripture is inspired by God…” Christians often assume they know what this means, but Paul seems to have created the word “inspired.” It does not appear in the Greek language before this and is used nowhere else in the Bible. It literally means “God-breathed” but Paul doesn’t go on to explain precisely what he means. It is a metaphor, and metaphors are not precise. Push them too far and they break down.
When I think of inspired, I think of God-influenced. This leaves open a variety of ways in which the biblical authors were influenced by God.
RNS: A lot of critics reject the Bible because of the violence in the Old Testament. What say you?