What Do We Mean When We Say the Bible is TRUE? by Chris Pollock

Rev. Chris Pollock

Over the next few weeks, we are discussing big questions about the Bible. We will adapting our sermons for this blog. This is part one of our sermon series, "Questions About the Bible".

About 6 years ago I was sitting in my office when I received this really provocative email from a young girl in my youth ministry named, Sarah. I think she was about 15 when she sent this to me.

This is what she said:

“Chris, I have weird question. [It’s] about the Bible. Namely, how to actually read it. I don't mean in the sense of like, reading the words, or even getting meaning out of them, whether it's something I apply to my own life because of devotions or something God throws at me with flashing lights that say SARAH! SARAH! READ! THIS IT'S IMPORTANT! I mean more in terms of truth. I mean, [I’ve heard] that the Bible is true and it's the word of God. [However,] I don't get are some of the stories. We're told from a really young age that every word of the Bible is true, and then later [I heard] that Esther might not have ever even existed (which was a blow for me as she's my absolute favorite). I've been struggling with this issue for a while, and I talk to my parents about it. I'm just wondering, how much of the Bible is open for interpretation-- if any of it is at all? And how are you supposed to know? Are things like the story of Esther in the Bible sort of parables, teaching us truth through fiction, or... what?”

How would you answer her questions?

Growing up I heard people say all kinds of things about the Bible. Some softer statements like “the Bible is our map”, and our “guide to faith.” But others were more dogmatic, like “the Bible is the literal, inerrant, infallible, inspired word of God.”

Sometimes it’s implied that the Bible is like a “Christian magic book” that God tossed from the sky onto someone’s desk or is this immovable list of ancient rules that should be applied for all time. Some treat it as a book of historical events, others see these as a collection of mythical stories, and still others believe that it contains everything that encompasses the mystery of God, and all answers of science and the universe can be found within it.

It’s safe to say there can be a lot of confusion surrounding this unique, ancient book. So where do we begin?

John Wesley, our theological forefather, believed that the scriptures “are a complete rule of faith and practice,” and “they are clear in all necessary points.” But he also adds, “and yet, their clearness does not prove that they need not be explained.”

And if that is the case, then it’s important to ask questions like the ones Sarah asks:

  • What do we mean when we say the Bible is True?
  • What is the Bible and where did it come from?
  • What is the function of the Bible?
  • How do we even going about reading and interpreting the Bible?
  • Why does reading and interpreting the Bible even matter?

But - let’s be honest. Asking questions can be a slippery slope, and when we start down this road asking these sorts of questions, a whole series of other questions about the Bible, God, truth, life, and faith are raised. We get a little uncomfortable. So as your pastor, let me just assure you, that it’s okay to be uncomfortable. When talking about his own reading of scripture, Eugene Peterson says: “It looks like I am going to have to let go of what I expected and dive into a mystery.”

Over the next five weeks we will tackle some big questions about the Bible, but first is this: What do we mean when we say that the Bible is TRUE?

To answer this question, we have to take a giant step back and recognize that at the heart of the Jewish and Christian faith is a revolutionary idea: God uniquely “reveals” Godself to humanity within the context of historical events. (Dennis Bratcher, For the Bible Tells Me So) In other words, God makes the first move. God makes the introduction. God is the original seeker – and from the beginning this God is about seeking out humanity and creating ways to redeem and restore creation.

What makes Christianity unique even from Judaism is that Christians believe God revealed Godself in person. This is Orthodox Christianity. God is on full display in the historical person, Jesus of Nazareth.

The whole Christian story is one by which God is attempting to move into our world. We call this “The Incarnation.” God moved into the neighborhood (John 1). Christianity is the response to God after this self-disclosure in history. This is an area in which the order of things is really important.

Wrong Order: GOD → Bible → Church

When I was younger, I was under the impression that God first gave humans the Bible by telling them what to write down, almost in a trancelike state. And I thought this is what made it authoritative, inspired, and true. Then, I thought, a group of people were convinced of the “truth” of these words, and made a religion, becoming the Church. And in that scenario, it was important for these Bible-believing people to use the Bible to convince others to believe it. And it was doomsday for those who didn’t make a decision to believe.

Now the implications of this order are very serious because it means that the scriptures, given to us by God, would be the revelation of all knowledge. In this understanding, the Bible then is the communication of data, facts, details not to be missed -- full and complete. There is nothing mysterious – there is no wonder, admiration, awe, or even love – in this approach.

But Christian orthodoxy (right belief) INSISTS that the Bible is NOT the revelation of God – but rather, it POINTS TO THE REVELATION OF GOD TO THE WORLD!

Correct Order: GOD → Church → Bible

The scriptures “bear witness to” the true WORD of God. The scriptures are a proclamation – a story – a narrative - that tell about God’s self-revelation. We could say it this way: The Bible is the written word (lower case “w”) of God (that only has authority) because it points to the LIVING WORD (capital “L,” capital “W”) of God (who IS the authority) – Jesus Christ. Our Church of the Nazarene article of faith about the Holy Scriptures is rooted in a historic Orthodox understanding. It says it this way:

We believe in the plenary inspiration of the Holy Scriptures, by which we understand the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments, given by divine inspiration, inerrantly revealing the will of God concerning us in all things necessary to our salvation, so that whatever is not contained therein is not to be enjoined as an article of faith. (Luke 24:44-47; John 10:35; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4; 2 Timothy 3:15-17; 1 Peter 1:10-12; 2 Peter 1:20-21)

We believe that the Bible (the 39 books of the Old Testament, and the 27 of the New) is a series of ancient documents of various genres, written over time, and through the Spirit are without error in collectively telling us the story of how God has decided to save the world – and God has decided to do this through the Son, Israel’s Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth.

The scriptures are the story of the activity of a once-mysterious-but-now-fully-revealed, loving God, as God works in history, in and among human beings, through events, and within the cultural framework from which they come.

God revealed Godself – people saw and experienced – then they talked about it – then they wrote it down – then they collectively affirmed it. And Christians still affirm that this God is still revealing Godself today. This is what gives the Bible it’s beef, it’s authority, it’s inspiration. It’s not that “God said it, I believe it, that settles it.” What gives the Bible authority, what makes it TRUE, is the collective affirmation of the people after they saw this God ACT. Show up. It tells us the truth about God. And people testify today, affirming that, “Yup! That’s what God did through Jesus in my life.”

So when Sarah asked me if I believed the Bible was true, this is how I answered her:

“If you would ask me if I believe (or the Church of the Nazarene’s official statement) is that the Bible is absolute historical fact, I (we) would say, “Well, some of it.” Some of it is fact. Some it is poetry. Some of it is letters. Some of it is song or parables. Some is this interesting genre called apocalyptic literature. Some of it is Wisdom literature (i.e. the Proverbs). Some of it is allegorical.

Above all – It is a spiritual book which means that it is the testimony of how GOD has acted in history – and yet – it is a human book in that we don’t believe that human beings were set in a trance and then robotically wrote things down as it was shot to them from heaven. Humans wrote within contexts, searched their hearts, communicated what they saw within their own contexts under the guidance of the Holy Spirit… In other words, the Bible is the written word of God that points to the LIVING WORD of God. – Jesus Christ."

There are a lot of details that Sarah asks – and we will get there – but there is a starting point for us: We read the Bible through the lens of the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. The written words point the way to the Living Word, and in turn He provides what we need to understand and interpret all the other words. This, we affirm, is true.

God’s activity in the past, described in the scriptures, is the same activity that changes our present, and gives us hope for the future. This is what the Church confesses and this is what we bear witness to every time we gather. It is at the Table of our Lord where we remember and live into the story of God’s revelation to us in Christ. Bread. Wine. Body. Blood. Life. Death.

Resurrection.

This is the mystery into which we are invited to dive.

Doug's 8th Street Dreams by Chris Pollock

Doug Samples

While restoration is underway at the 8th Street Church, we are sharing the dreams God has given us for the 8th Street building and our new neighborhood. Doug first shared his 8th Street Dreams during our service on July 23, 2017.

Hi, my name is Doug and I’m part of Midtown Church of the Nazarene because, left to myself, I am very selfish and self-centered. Being a part of this congregation challenges me to give myself away and dream dreams that are bigger than me!

“Anything I can dream… God can do!” This is one of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite pastors, my friend, Amadeu Teixeira, who pastors a church of 3000 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. What a crazy statement! Do we dare to believe in a God who can answer all our dreams? Do we dare to believe that verse in Ephesians 3 that says, “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly… abundantly… above all that we ask or imagine, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever.”

I don’t know about you, but I am a huge dreamer! With my strengths of Positivity and Woo, I can dream and imagine a LOT of things! For instance, as we have participated in all the recent baby dedications, my pastoral prayer for all our little ones is that God will make all their dreams come true! And God’s Word tells us that He is able to DO all our DREAMS!

But seriously folks, have you been listening to the kind of ridiculous things we are dreaming around here?

  • We are dreaming of raising 1.7 Million dollars! That’s the kind of money that only happens to churches 5 times our size!
  • We are dreaming of a congregation designed for those who have given up on the church actually being the church!
  • We are dreaming of a congregation that crosses all barriers; a church that welcomes people from every race, economic status, political persuasion or sexual preference.
  • We are dreaming of a place where the captives find freedom, the blind can see, the deaf can hear… where the lonely are called by name, the rich can do the impossible and discover the joy of giving their belongings away… where children are valued and nurtured, and the poor are empowered to lead.
  • We are dreaming of the restoration of an old building that will serve as a proclamation of the resurrection power of Jesus Christ to our city… and more specifically, to our nearby neighbors.
  • We are dreaming of an “outdoor kitchen with aromas drifting throughout the neighborhood”… that attracts homeless people from miles around. Is that really okay with us?
  • We are dreaming of a sanctuary that is aesthetically beautiful enough to attract the weddings (and funerals) of our neighbors in the ultra-modern homes just to the west of us.
  • We are dreaming of an outdoor, twinkle-lighted rooftop (with misters) where we can hold summertime, Thursday night karaoke parties for our homeless friends as well as our ultra-modern home friends.
  • We are dreaming of an outdoor prayer labyrinth that would be a sacred place for contemplative prayer for our friends from St. Anthony’s… or the County Jail… or our neighbors… or for us!
  • We are dreaming of networking with neighborhood ministries, both secular and faith-based, to be the best neighbors to those who live and work close by.
  • We are dreaming of a church not defined by walls… an open space for the outcast, and a resource for the marginalized.
  • We are dreaming of being a congregation who generously gives love, flexibility, intimacy, connectedness, and grace to our neighbors… instead of sitting in church pews gazing at our spiritual navels and judging everyone who doesn’t look and act just like us!
  • We dream of being a church that the founder of our Church of the Nazarene, Phineas Bresee, would be proud of: “a place in the heart of the city, which could be made a center of holy fire, and where the gospel could be preached to the poor.”
  • And as if all this is not enough, we are dreaming of being a “church that plants churches.” How crazy is it to think that God could use our congregation to inspire and resource 6 to 8 new churches throughout our city over the next decade? That might even make it interesting enough for Cheryl and me to retire in OKC!

C’mon now! We don’t really think we can do all of that, do we? I mean, we’re good… but we’re not that good! No we’re not!

But God loves us… individually and collectively! And I believe our dreams excite Him, especially when we get beyond our selfish, individual, “Bless me!” prayers and open our hearts to dreams that are bigger than us! When we dream dreams for the Kingdom that go far beyond our abilities and resources, God invites us to “be strong and take courage” (Joshua 1:9) and trust Him to answer prayers and dreams that may seem ridiculous to us.

My therapist often tells me that I live in a dream world! I know… and I love it! I don’t know if we can do all this or not, but I plan on hanging around for a while to see what God wants to do in and through our Midtown congregation! I love believing and living as if “Anything I can dream… God can do!”

And I love sharing life with my Midtown (8th Street) Church family!


It takes work (& money) to make our dreams come true. Will you join us? You can give online through our parent church, Bethany First Church of the Nazarene; make sure to mark your gift for "Midtown- 8th Street Project." You can also send cash or check to PO Box 76266, Oklahoma City, OK 73147. Contact Pastor Chris Pollock at chrispollockokc@gmail.com if you have questions about giving.

Jeana's 8th Street Dreams by Chris Pollock

Jeana Gering

Easter is the season of God’s dreams coming true, and we are dreaming with him. We are sharing our 8th Street Dreams – the dreams God has given us for the 8th Street building and our new neighborhood. Jeana first shared her 8th Streets Dreams during our service on May 28, 2017.

Hello, my name is Jeana Gering, I am a part of the Fitch parish group, and I’m here because this congregation truly strives to live the way of Jesus.

I want to share with you my dreams for the 8th Street Church, but first, because this is a place where I can be vulnerable, I have to make a confession. When we began this whole “8th Street Dreams” series, I didn’t really get it. I just don’t relish thinking in intangibles. “But Jeana, you’re an artist. You’re creative. You’ve devoted your life to abstract concepts.” No – I’ve devoted my life to representing abstract concepts through physical, visual, and auditory elements. I make something out of them, put them into context. What’s the point in just dreaming for dreaming's sake? Why state these lofty, intangible aspirations if we have no way of truly knowing if we’ll ever have the tools and means to get there? So I resolved to listen politely while the rest of you shared your 8th Street dreams.

And then Michaele called. She needed someone in a pinch to publically and vulnerably share their desires. Because she’s quite clever, she called the person who publically shares her vulnerability all the time. She knew I could do the public speaking thing in a pinch without getting overwhelmed – it’s my spiritual gift. Dadgummit, she caught me. Or rather, God went searching for his lost sheep. Not that I felt like I was lost – I was just refusing to sit down and think. Like a good millennial, I am a master at filling my head with distractions. Choosing to focus on the inconsequential trivialities of life that keep me from having to make any real personal decisions or declarations – work, Netflix, Candy Crush. But now I’m forced to start dreaming, frustrated the entire time because I feel like the exercise is frivolous. Sure, I want these grandiose ideals of community and acceptance, of inclusion and selflessness. But how does wanting these things actually affect anything? Now I really do feel like a lost sheep.

But I have to write something, and I can’t just wing it on Sunday because Michaele wants to publish this on the blog. Foiled again. Okay. What do I want 8th Street church to look like in 2022?

Well, I know Danny and I want to have kids, and I’d like that to be around 2022. What do I want the 8th Street Church to be for them? Well I know what I don’t want it to be – I don’t want it to be “safe”. Okay, I know I just rattled several of you, so let’s unpack that statement. I don’t want to use the guise of safety in order to surround my kids with people who look just like them, who come from similar backgrounds or family modules, who are in the same socioeconomic status. I don’t want them to be afraid of or uncomfortable around people who are different. When they see something they aren’t familiar with or don’t understand, I want them to run toward it rather than cowering in fear or walling themselves off. I want them to learn this from me, but I know that on my own I am going to fall short of this aspiration time and time again. I know this because I don’t have the greatest track record. While my parents did instill these values in me in theory, my human instinct for self preservation flocks to what is known, what is comfortable, what isn’t challenging. So my dream for the 8th Street Church is that it would be a safe place for people to abandon safety. A community that pushes one another to run toward what’s uncomfortable, what’s different, what we don’t understand. That we would trust in God to guide us to love His people – all His people. To embrace new, odd, unfamiliar ways of worship. To send us to places that make us uneasy. To embrace feeling uncomfortable until the sensation of uncomfortableness becomes a feeling that is simply familiar. And I hope that this example set for my children would so deeply engrain the practice in them that they would never know this mentality to be an anomaly, but a way – no – the way of life.

Dagnabbit, Michaele, your exercise worked. This is something meaningful. This is actually something I can start working on right now! What’s more, I’ve learned something in the process. This wasn’t ever about intangible concepts that make us seem lofty and enlightened. This was about defining a destination. After all, a sheep really is lost if it doesn’t know where it’s going. Therefore, to those of you who joined me as a “dream-skeptic”, I’m going to challenge you to take some time to write out your dreams. Pause Netflix, leave the dishes in the sink, put down the cell phone, open a Word document or an old-fashioned journal, and just start writing stream of consciousness. It doesn’t have to be good, or revolutionary, or even cohesive – yours isn’t going on a blog. Because I’ll be honest, even though I had several ideas floating around in my head, what I’ve shared today wasn’t truly fleshed out so that I could connect the dots until I had to start typing. Please join me in dreaming so that together we can flesh out our idea of our 8th Street Church destination. So that we know what we’re investing our time and money into and why we’re doing it. It’s a lot easier to know which path to take when we have an idea of where we’re going.


To learn more about the 8th Street Project, go here.

It takes work (& money) to make our dreams come true. Will you join us? You can give online through our parent church, Bethany First Church of the Nazarene; make sure to mark your gift for "Midtown- 8th Street Project." You can also send cash or check to PO Box 76266, Oklahoma City, OK 73147. Contact Pastor Chris Pollock at chrispollockokc@gmail.com if you have questions about giving.

Leigha's 8th Street Dreams by Chris Pollock

Leigha Day

Easter is the season of God’s dreams coming true, and we are dreaming with him. Throughout the next five weeks, we are sharing our 8th Street Dreams – the dreams God has given us for the 8th Street building and our new neighborhood. Leigha first shared her 8th Streets Dreams during our service on May 21, 2017.

My name is Leigha, and I am part of the Day-LaVigne Parish Group. I am here because I am an imperfect person, and I want to commit to love and be loved by a group of imperfect people through a perfect, redemptive, just, and merciful God.

What is my 8th Street Dream for our church? To begin to answer this question I had to first face the fact that I don’t really know what church is.

I found church as a barefooted child running through the blue-carpeted floors of the sanctuary.
I found church in a Nicaraguan barrio while playing the tambourine.
I found church through a warm cup of coffee and controversial conversation with a stranger.
I found church in the Philippines under a bridge that housed many children.
I found church through music and silence created by a classroom full of children on the Autism Spectrum.

I don’t know what church is- I’m just not sure. But I do know that I have found it here at Midtown church, with you, and I have dreams for us to become a church that embodies and embraces people and experiences such as these. I dream of a place where love is not defined by fear. A place where solidarity overrides preference. A place and space thoughtfully created for you, me, and the least of these.

My dream is that we are a church not defined by walls. That we are a people that choose to overcome language barriers, socioeconomic barriers, racial and gender barriers, barriers due to mental health. That the repurposing and construction of the physical walls of the 8th Street Church are not symbolic of a barrier—but as a construct of peace and a safe haven for vulnerability. My prayer is that the 8th Street Church becomes our home, and that we not only show hospitality to the people that walk in, but that our home is always open—an open space for the outcast, and a resource for the marginalized.

There are two dictionary definitions to define the word “neighbor”. The first, “noun, a person living near or next door to the speaker or person referred”. The second, “verb, to be situated next to or very near (another)”. I want to become both definitions of a neighbor. I want to care for, love on, and show Jesus to our physical neighbors. But I REALLY want to choose to the verb, the action—“to be situated next to or very near (another)” with our neighbors even when it feels difficult and uncomfortable, just as Jesus does and shows us through his teachings.

Oh, Jesus, may you give us love to show our neighbors, desire to learn from our neighbors, grace to embrace our neighbors, strength to support our neighbors, and healthy resources to provide our neighbors. To God be all the glory.

I hope that in 2022 that we are a family of people that can look back and say: “I found church in a hopeless place.”


To learn more about the 8th Street Project, go here.

It takes work (& money) to make our dreams come true. Will you join us? You can give online through our parent church, Bethany First Church of the Nazarene; make sure to mark your gift for "Midtown- 8th Street Project." You can also send cash or check to PO Box 76266, Oklahoma City, OK 73147. Contact Pastor Chris Pollock at chrispollockokc@gmail.com if you have questions about giving.

Ben's 8th Street Dreams by Chris Pollock

Ben Busic

Easter is the season of God’s dreams coming true, and we are dreaming with him. Throughout the next five weeks, we are sharing our 8th Street Dreams – the dreams God has given us for the 8th Street building and our new neighborhood. Ben first shared his 8th Streets Dreams during our service on May 14, 2017.

Hello, my name is Ben Busic. I’m here because I want to continue the calling of our Nazarene roots to bring lost and broken people to Christ. I would like to share with you the dreams I have for the 8th Street Church.

I have been a part of the Nazarene Church my entire life. Not a day goes by that I am not impacted because of the Church of the Nazarene. I was born here in Oklahoma City into the welcoming arms of Williams Memorial Church of the Nazarene. Since then, my family has been involved in a total of 6 Nazarene Churches as full time members, all of them having a significant part of my upbringing. I have had the opportunity to meet thousands upon thousands of Nazarenes from literally all across the World. We are a part of a Church that truly has global outreach! In fact, of all the millions of Nazarenes in the world, more than 70% of them are outside of North America. With many of this 70% being located in 3rd world countries, we are a part of a Church that truly understands what it means to be out of our comfort zones to show God’s love to every tribe and nation.

I would like to share with you a little history of our Nazarene roots.

Phineas F. Bresee was the founder of the Church of the Nazarene. He left a comfortable position in the Methodist church to work with the inner city poor in Los Angeles. One of his journal entries wrote, “It had been my long-cherished desire to have a place in the heart of the city, which could be made a center of holy fire, and where the gospel could be preached to the poor.”

Bethany First Church of the Nazarene was planted over 100 years ago. C.B. Jernigan was the District Superintendent at the time. Just like we have been in this process to plant a church, so was Jernigan. Within a year of planting BFC, he also planted 35 additional churches! Johnny Jernigan, the wife a C.B. Jernigan opened a Nazarene Rescue Home whose mission statement was “for penitent, homeless and friendless girls.” This was a home for the unwanted, unwed girls to feel safe. Within a few years time, 147 babies had been born there. Think about this: A hundred years ago… scandalous! Mattie Mallory, another Nazarene around this same time, used her inheritance in 1897 to open Oklahoma City’s first orphanage. This later became the Children’s Center in Bethany.

We are a Church that began courageously. We reached out to the scandalous, to the unwanted, to the lost and broken people. What does all this history mean to us at 8th Street Church? We still have this mission to reach the lost and forgotten people all across the world! That is why we want to give to this Nazarene Church in urban Oklahoma City. There are so many people that need the message of Holiness right in our own neighborhoods.

This is not only a building; it is a place for everyone in the city to come together worship our living God. Alicia and I ask that you join us in giving to this new church building project. We are giving in addition to our regular 10% tithe not because we feel like we have to, but because we want to be a part of what God has planned for his people.

Let’s continue the good work of our roots, together.


To learn more about the 8th Street Project, go here.

It take work (& money) to make our dreams come true. Will you join us? You can give online through our parent church, Bethany First Church of the Nazarene; make sure to mark your gift for "Midtown- 8th Street Project." You can also send cash or check to PO Box 76266, Oklahoma City, OK 73147. Contact Pastor Chris Pollock at chrispollockokc@gmail.com if you have questions about giving.