The Bible was supposed to guarantee it.
I promise I’m not talking about Harold Camping again. But he said the Bible “guarantees” that May 21st was the day of judgement. Now, those billboards all over the country stand there, making the Bible out to be a liar. If I were the Bible, I’d sue Harold Camping for defamation of character.
The good thing about this whole fiasco is it almost got everyone’s minds off of the whole heaven and hell debate…almost. I don’t think that one’s going away any time soon. In fact, I think the fight over hell is just heating up.
Judgement Day, heaven and hell, it’s all just part of a two-thousand year argument people have had about how trustworthy the Bible is (or how trustworthy are we with it). The result of that debate? Words like “inerrancy” have become like fighting words for evangelicals. Words like “allegory” are like the worst sort of curse words.
Harold Camping believed the Bible guaranteed May 21 was the day. It makes me wonder, just how can we know what the Bible guarantees…
Fifteen Minutes of Infallibility
Jesus once called Peter “Satan.” Strong words from the Son of God. Come to think of it, none of the gospels portray Peter as all that awesome or wise. He’s kind of a stumbling, bumbling boob of a disciple.
We don’t get too far into the book of Acts before Paul is getting up in Peter’s grill about circumcision, which Paul also boasts about. Peter was being a jerk, and he knew it.
Peter was never a perfect guy. Actually, he had a real propensity for being an idiot, albeit a lovable one. Which is why when we get through the gospels and Acts and get to Peter’s letters and he says something out of the blue like, “then Jesus went to hell and preached to the spirits there,” my response is always…
Why did he have to say that? No one else mentions it. And how does Peter know this? Did Jesus whisper in his ear, “Peter, you would not believe what hell is like. It’s even worse than I thought.”
I like almost everything else Peter says. But part of me wonders if Peter got that one right. I mean, he wasn’t the sharpest stick his entire life, but for fifteen minutes, he was able to get it together and write a perfectly infallible little memo, straight from the mind of God? That’s what you have to believe if you want to be an evangelical with a “perfect” Bible.
That’s our first problem with the Bible. Do we have the faith to believe that the mind of God could really come through a guy like Peter?
Lost in Interpretation
Okay, so it’s not the biggest deal in the world whether Jesus really went down to hell to have a conference call with Satan’s minions. But saying that Saturday was going to be the end of the world when it wasn’t was a big deal.
Granted, the logical leaps taken to conclude that Saturday was the day were astonishingly absurd. They took “with the Lord, a day is like a thousand years” to mean that with the Lord, a day is literally a thousand years.
The funny thing is Jesus even got mad at his disciples for taking him too literally. The King of Kings was a big fan of allusion, allegory, parables, metaphors, similes, analogies, hyperbole, and other non-literal language. Unfortunately, most of his audience didn’t take “Basic Literary Devices 101” in college, so it was lost on them…and a lot of modern day fundamentalists.
That’s our second problem. Even if every word is straight from God’s mouth, we just miss the point. We ignore the gospel and get stuck on some silly detail, like the day of the Lord’s return.
Speak Loudly and Carry A Bigger Stick
Human history has a way of repeating itself. In the beginning, Man finds stick. Man finds stick useful. Man figures out how to hurt other man with stick. Man finds iron. Man finds iron useful. Man figures out how to hurt other man with iron.
That’s how it goes with nearly every human discovery. We harness a new resource, then figure out how to screw someone else with it. And then we found the Word of God. Man figures out how to hurt other man with Word of God. Word of God work much better than stick…
What’s become clear to me watching the church over the last ten years – the dawn of the “emergent” church, the debate over “post-modernism,” the fresh debate over heaven and hell, the not quite end of the world – is that Christians love the Bible. We find it beautiful, awe-inspiring, hopeful, gut-wrenching, redeeming. We all absolutely love the Bible…
…but we love being right more.
Being right is our idol, our god.
And that’s why we draw a line in the sand over so many things. That’s why we fight over so many things we maybe can’t know.
Okay, talk to me! How infallible is the Bible to you? Is the Bible right, and we just don’t know how to use it? Or does the way we use the Bible just prove our own depravity?