Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Bible--it's good but let's be realistic

A while back I wrote about some ideas I've rejected. Now I want to expand on a couple things.

"I've rejected the idea that the Bible is infallible."

"I've rejected the idea that more church involvement, more prayer, or more Bible reading will automatically make a person happier and closer to God. (Or did I ever believe this one?)"

The idea that the Bible is infallible seems to be based on circular reasoning. I can't believe that it's inspired by God just because it says so. And even if I could believe that, the part that says "All scripture is inspired by God" (2 Timothy 3:16) might not actually refer to the whole Bible. If the timeline that some fairly conservative scholars put in my Bible is correct, 2 Timothy wasn't the last book of the Bible written, so how could that verse refer to books that weren't written yet? And does "inspired by God" necessarily mean "infallible"? If a movie is "inspired by a true story," that doesn't mean it reflects the original story completely accurately. If God himself said the Bible is infallible, I could believe that. And if Jesus is God in the flesh, I could believe him. The Bible says Jesus said, "Scripture cannot be broken," (John 10:35), but that couldn't be referring to the New Testament, and something about how he just gave that a passing mention mid-sentence makes me wonder if that really wasn't his point. Or maybe I'm just looking for a cop-out.

And on the second topic, I used to read the Bible just about every day, pretty consistently. While I can't deny I learned some good stuff, and I matured during that time, it didn't make me super happy and I didn't feel close to God, despite what some preachers promised. So that's why I maybe never believed that reading the Bible would have some automatic amazing effect.

But when it really comes down to it, the Bible is an amazing book. Infallible or not, automatically life-changing or not, I have found it inspiring, convicting, just plain interesting, and sometimes just plain boring. And I still believe a divine message somehow comes through, but not necessarily in the form of answers; sometimes it's in the form of questions. I still try to read it regularly, and I'm still inspired, enlightened, and puzzled by it.

If there are any preachers out there who are inclined to make lofty promises about what will happen when people read the Bible, I'd suggest being more realistic. I suspect you'll get more people to actually stick to reading the Bible if you don't make promises like that.

So if you aren't all that familiar with the Bible, pick it up and read it. I promise it won't automatically revolutionize your life.


Anonymous said...

A little late in poasting this. But I think I can reluctantly agree with your view that the Bible is not infallible, but is still inspiring.
Maybe I'm agreeing with your argument because I can't agree with some comments made in the Bible... Maybe because in a way God inspired means it has been humanly modified. Not sure. But I'd still like to think that there are somethings from the Bible that are solidly from God, or plain spiritual, and not marred by human nature.
Question is then, which part?
But yah, reading the Bible doesn't automatically make one happier and closer to God.
Peace out.
-- someone you do bbl study with

Anonymous said...

The Catholic Church teaches that The Bible is not necessarily historically or scientifically accurate, but in all the it teaches in regards to salvation, it is infallible. In that sense, I believe the Bible to be infallible.

Alex said...

Ooh, two anonymous comments! I think I know who the first one is from, but I'm not sure about the second one. My stat tracker suggests you're American, so maybe I don't know you.

Hmm. Could there be things in the Bible that are totally solidly from God, not marred by human nature? Maybe some direct quotes from God and Jesus? I don't know. Ultimately, I do consider the Bible by far the highest authority we have on God, so I'm pretty reluctant to just pick and choose what I like and what I don't like. I believe that wrestling with the stuff we don't like in the Bible is an important aspect of having faith.

The Catholic perspective actually sounds pretty similar to Dr. Denis Lamoureux's perspective. He teaches Science and Religion: Christian Perspectives at a Catholic college on the University of Alberta campus, but he's Protestant.