Doubt Month: The B-I-B-L-E

January 20, 2010

Yes, that’s the book for me.

I bet you love your Bible, don’t you?  I know I do.  I love it so much, that I’ve even got a couple of my favorite sentences from it memorized! 

I love my Bible so much, that I like to exaggerate to other people how much I read it, even though it seems about as productive as bragging to my friends that I made out with my wife last night…for ten minutes.

Sometimes, when I’m alone with my Bible, I like to whisper sweet pet names in it’s ear.  My Bible loves it when I call it “inerrant.”

We’re almost done with Doubt Month, and I just had to talk about our sometimes strange relationships with our Bibles.  That’s a big issues that divides Christians – how we treat the Bible.  We get defensive about it, like a bunch of jilted lovers or something.  Lots of churches like to nickname the Bible “inerrant” or “literal” or “double edged sword.”  Many churches who spend a lot of time praising the Bible like this warn about “liberals” who try to “destroy” the Bible, (or heretic bloggers who joke about whispering sweet nothings in its ear.)

Some churches I’ve visited checked me at the door and nearly made me discard my NIV Bible like it was a video camera at a concert.  That’s the other thing some Christians can’t stand – the letters on the spine of someone else’s Bible.  Some people look at your NIV like it’s a leather-bound hooker sitting in the pew next to you with your name tattooed in cursive across her exposed buttocks.

There are certainly a lot of lines drawn when it comes to what you believe about your Bible, or even which Bible you fancy. 

I’m just beginning to doubt that it matters so much…

I’m a guy who believes what my Bible says.  I believe Jesus performed literal miracles.  I believe He rose from the dead.  If He didn’t, I don’t see much point in the Bible.  I generally take a literal view of most of the Bible.  And you know what?  I went to seminary, which means I know how to study the Bible, and I know lots of big words, and God’s mind is no longer unsearchable to me, because I’m so learned…

Well, I thought so anyway.

Recently though, a close friend called me on something.  He loves his Bible too.  He loves Jesus and his miracles and his resurrection.  But one day he said to me, “Matt, I think this “inerrancy” thing is a stumbling block that Christians need to help soften for seekers.”

Woah!  No way.  If someone wants to get in my church, they’re going to have to buy into the Bible, all of it.  You can’t go picking and choosing which parts you like…

But he asked, “Say a non-believer is having trouble with the story of Jonah.  Are you going to draw a line in the sand over whether a man literally was swallowed by a fish?”

Well, no I guess not.

“You have to admit, if Jonah were not in the Bible, it would the most ridiculous story you ever heard.”

Well that’s true.

“But it’s in the Bible, so we’re quick to defend an otherwise indefensible story.  Say someone is having trouble with the entire Old Testament.”

Well, that is half the Bible.  I’m not sure they can be saved if…

“Wouldn’t it be more important to just ask them if they can believe that God loves them?  If they can consider that, doesn’t it make Jesus much more plausible?  Does it really matter if God created the world in six literal days?  Does the message of Jonah change if it happened literally or if God put a story in someone’s heart?  Does it really matter if we look as if we know exactly what the Bible is saying at all times? Or does it really matter that God loved us enough for Jesus to die?”

I guess you’re right.

I still love my Bible.  I still think Jonah got swallowed by a fish, for real, but I don’t think it’s that important that I believe that.  On the other hand, I think the virgin birth is important, and I’d be happy to tell you why if you askedSome things are important to believe, or it’s just a book.  I’ll admit, if someone says they have doubts about that much of the Bible, I have doubts if they’re that much of a Christian.  But should I have those doubts?  I’m starting to doubt the importance of every Christian having the exact same beliefs about every last story in the Bible.

What do you think?  Do you believe all the Bible literally?  Are there stories you have trouble believing?  Do you have trouble believing that someone who doubts parts of the Bible can be a Christian?