This week was a bit different from the past two weeks. We still played a few interactive games to illustrate the point, but reserved about half of the time for "large group" discussion time.
The past two weeks have done a pretty nice job of establishing that the Bible is made up of the right books and that we have a reliable copy--in other words, we have a good historically accurate document telling us about the life of Jesus and the acts and letters of His followers.
But what do we mean when we talk about the Bible being inspired?
We began by reading 2Tim 3:15-16, and defined "inspired by God" as literally, "God-breathed." To illustrate this, we moved into our first game.
Game 1 - Youth Breathed
Two teams were set up, and each team had to pick one person who is "full of hot air." Having done so, each of the non-hot-air people are given deflated balloons and sharpees. They have to draw something important to them on the balloon.
The teams then get in a line. The contest is simple: the "hot air" person must blow up one balloon (at least softball sized), hand it back to its owner (who ties it), and then proceed to the next person. First team to tie them all wins.
We then gathered back into large group to share the point. You see, the person who blew up the balloon provided the balloon's contents, shape, and size: yet the balloon still had on its front an image of what was important to the owner.
The Bible is the same way: God inspires it by providing the "breath" and shape and size and contents--yet still the personality of the human author is imprinted upon it. As a result, Matthew the tax collector is going to use technical terms for money, Luke the physician is going to focus more on healings than the other texts, etc.
We then discussed the difference between inspired (which says that God breathed the contents into the Bible) and inerrant (which says that the Bible is without error). We discussed that inerrancy in the Bible is only applicable to the Bible itself, not to your interpretation of the Bible.
To illustrate this, we moved on to Game 2.
Game 2 - Whadda ya see?
In this game we had 7 students each take a turn trying to correctly answer some optical illusions. (See the presentation at the end for details.)
The point of this game is that our brains are so good at making decisions in context that it often jumps to conclusions based on our current worldview. We have to take this into consideration when we read the Scripture.
The Scripture is absolutely inerrant - but to protect ourselves from making a bad interpretation and calling our interpretation inerrant, we need to be certain that we are not jumping to conclusions about a text just because of our worldview.
However, the other part of the game was to point out that there is one actual truth. There is one right answer to each of those pictures...you just have to pursue it carefully. The same is true in the Scripture. God inspired the Scripture, and it is inerrant at conveying the message He intended--but be careful that you do not turn His message into your message. It's easy to do!
Game 3 - The Phone Book Discussion
In this game, we show a picture of a phone book and use it as a conversation starter.
First, we assume that it was originally inerrant.
Next, we point out a misspelled word. We ask the question, "Does this mean that it isn't inerrant?" The conclusion the youth came to after their discussion was that the original text was inerrant, but that does not mean that copying errors aren't possible. (Perfect!)
They then asked absolutely the natural question--how then do we know that our copy is accurate? This allowed us to refer back to last week's lesson, that we have 24,000 copies with 99.5% agreement, so we can be strongly confident.
(This conversation was clearly VERY good for the youth, as several had apparently had these questions but only now saw how to reason it through.)
Next, we looked at the fact that this was the section from the "A" part of the phone book. So the question is...does this mean that the phone book is wrong for not addressing B, C, D, etc.? The answer was universally, "No, that's silly." So then I asked them why we expect the same of the Bible, then? Why is it that so many of us assume that the Bible is somehow obligated to address every single subject in the world around us?
We used this to discuss the importance of letting God tell His own story--the Bible is His story, not ours. So we need to be careful not to read into it what we wish He had addressed, instead of what He actually addressed.
The first two games took us about 30 minutes, and the last game about 15 minutes (due to the discussions). The last game really served to start the conversation and so I went into the discussion period with one open-ended question: "When people try to debate you or challenge your belief in the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture, what kind of things do they say?"
This led us to good discussions about the importance of going back to the original text (instead of arguing for or against a particular translation), as well as a lot of questions about alleged contradictions. In fact, I might adjust one of the later weeks to address how we approach alleged contradictions, because that is apparently something that several in our youth have been confronted with.
It was a really good discussion and I think the kids grew from it. This concluded our June focus, which was to demonstrate why we can trust the Bible. This serves as the foundation for the rest of the "F.A.Q." series.
For those wishing to use the same concept in your churches, follow this link to download the presentation. For those following this series, please note that the next two weeks will be "down" weeks, one for a group fellowship and one due to vacation. We will pick it up in July with the next topic and start building on our structure.