Pros and Cons of the Bible: Part IV
This is the final post in my four-part series that tries to honestly engage with some of the angst that some people (myself included) feel when they read their Bibles. The goal here was to perhaps say, put words and language to, those feelings of frustration, bewilderment, and curiosity that can rise to the surface when we try and interact with this thousands-year-old collection of writings.
In case you missed the first part where I explain the premise, I'm using a Pro/Con framework (ala Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show) to provide a jumping off point for the discussion.
In case you need to catch up,
Part I PRO: The Bible is Inspired by God CON: It has armed people throughout history to do some really atrocious things in the “name of God.”
PRO: The Bible was written by Humans CON: It’s culture and context isn’t always understood or appreciated
Part II PRO: The Bible reflects ways in which humanity has sought after, heard from, wandered from, and engaged with their Creator CON: Those interactions all occurred a long, long time ago, and can be quite violent and disturbing
Part III PRO: The Bible is diverse collection of different types of letters, poems, and books that all move with a singular narrative. CON: It has been used as a legal constitution to statically determine what is “right” and what is “wrong.”
PRO: The Bible is the unique Book for Christianity and functions as its voice of authority. CON: It has been seen as the ONLY source of truth, wisdom, and beauty, and its “authority” has been misunderstood and abused.
Many of you found it refreshing to have someone else echo things that you've always felt. While others have been a bit flummoxed that I'd say there are "Cons" to the Bible.
I acknowledge that none of these posts are exhaustive treatments of the issues I address. In fact, this post will be even briefer in its treatment of the final two Pros/Cons. But feel free to sound off in the comment section if you want to engage in any of them further.
Now, on to Part IV...
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PRO: The Bible reveals to us the life, teachings, and person of Jesus, as well as the movement that began in his name. CON: It has wrongly been used as the Word of God, to replace or trump Jesus, and the church has forgot her roots.
This, for me, is one of the strongest most compelling reasons why I still return to the Bible over and over again. For it is the unique and primary revealer as to the person of Jesus Christ. And it is Jesus that I follow, Jesus that I trust, Jesus that I give my life to.
And be it not for the Bible, I’d really struggle to know about Jesus, and to know how to best follow him.
However, the Church historically at times has err’d on the side of elevating the Bible as the “Word of God,” instead of acknowledging that Jesus is the “Word of God.”
And when you read the teachings of Jesus and get a picture for what the Kingdom of God is supposed to look like.. and you read about the New Testament church and how they functioned… it can often times be very curious how some of our Western/American/Protestant/Evangelical churches have gotten where they have.
It seems (to me, anyway) that according to the Word of God (remember, that means Jesus) some of our current church practices just seem really counter-Kingdom.
I get confused by the Prosperity Gosepl. I get confused by churches of tens of thousands of people. I get confused by churches who exclude people from the Table. I get confused by churches run/led only by men. I get confused by churches that get mixed up in politics. I get confused by flashy lights, fog machines, theater seating, rock-concert-vibe.
And so many times they point to something in the Bible as their support, or to justify something… but I want to say, “no, look at the person of JESUS!”
Like we talked about in Part II, if we are not viewing ALL of Scripture through the lens of Jesus, then we are doing it wrong.
PRO: The Bible has a profound ability to still speak to us, challenge, encourage, and inspire us today. CON: It is hard to interpret and can be wildly misunderstood and misused.
For the majority of the Church's life the lay Christian did not have a Bible. In a world now where you can get a teen Bible, a women's Bible, a man's Bible, children's Bible, a Bible app, a Bible for this or for that, for this AND that... I even came across the Forever Bible this week (you've been warned), it seems completely foreign to us to consider Christianity apart from having a Bible to read.
But Christianity operated for 1600 years with only the highly educated having the access or ability to read the Bible, and only the religious leaders having copies. People were, more or less, beholden to whatever was taught to them on Sundays. They did not have the ability to study the Scriptures for themselves.
You could argue there's an upside and a downside to that, I suppose. And I say that because nowadays everybody has a Bible, everyone has access to resources online (dictionaries, encyclopedias, commentaries, Greek/Hebrew translations, etc), so therefore everyone is an expert.
Except they aren't.
Furthermore, within the western/protestant/evangelical strain specifically, the idea of the "plain meaning" of the text has been elevated far beyond what is probably helpful. The idea being that you can simply open up to any passage, read it, and the best meaning is the plainest and simplest one.
Yet that just simply isn't the case.
As we've discussed previously, if you don't have a grasp on the context, the culture, the author, the audience, and the general narrative thrust of the Bible, there's a really good chance you're going to be headed in a poor direction interpretation-wise.
So yes, the Bible is (as the Hebrews writer said) living and active and powerful, and I'm fully convinced that the Spirt of God works profoundly through the words and the stories found therein, but it just isn't always that simple.
Which honestly can be a bit of bummer. I know people who have just been turned off completely at the sheer weight of the realization that they couldn't every really fully understand what the Bible was all about. They felt totally unequipped and unable to make sense of it.
And I resonate with that. Truly, I do. I'm someone who studies it and teaches it for a living and I can still feel like that!
One of the practices of reading the Bible I've found to be really helpful in light of all this is called Lectio Divina. It is essentially a way to Pray the Scriptures. To just sit with a text, meditate on it, pray it. The goal is not to figure it out, dissect it, interpret it.
It's something, therefore, that anyone can do as a way to approach the Bible and be fed by the unlimited inspiration and beauty found therein.
So if you're someone who has been turned off or discouraged from reading the Bible because you just feel totally insufficient to really "get" it, then I invite you to try it out.
Okay friends, that is it. Thus concludes my four part series featuring seven PROS/CONS of reading the Bible.
Thanks for reading along.
I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comment section!