AVWAS: The Bible, The Whole Bible, and Nothing But The Bible

The Bible is a BIG book.  A really big book.  Not nearly as big as the entire Wheel of Time trilogy put together, but at least as big as two of the books.  It’s about 800,000 words, depending on the translation.  From the Christian perspective, that’s a lot of perfection.  Many Christians – most that I’ve met – consider the Bible to be the irrefutable, if often misinterpreted, word of God.  That means that every one of those 800,000 words needs to be true in some way that is always applicable, never negotiable.

To me, this is one of the greatest stumbling blocks on the path to Christianity, and I’m sure I’m not alone.  The Bible says an awful lot of really good things about loving each other, being kind, being generous, meeting the needs of your community, and in general gives a pretty solid guideline on living a just and moral existence on this mortal coil.  Even if you hate what someone is doing, the Bible is pretty clear that you’re supposed to love them anyway.  That’s a good thing.  That’s tolerance – not a message we hear often associated with Christianity in the media.

But, to me, the Christian view is necessarily all-or-nothing. Either you believe everything the Bible says or you believe nothing of what the Bible says.  Or, perhaps I should rephrase that as either you believe everything the Bible says or you’re not a Christian.  I certainly believe a lot of things that the Bible says – don’t kill people, don’t lie to people, etc. – but I just as certainly don’t believe everything that the Bible says.

So, every time I read the Bible (which has been several times, for certain sections) I keep finding myself stopping and saying, “No, that’s wrong.  I don’t agree with that.”  And then it makes me want to put the book down completely, because with each stopping point there closes a door between me and Christianity.  I think there is a logical contradiction in saying “you need to take some of the Bible with a grain of salt” and also saying it’s the infallible word of God.  There are phrases in the Bible, such as “It is disgraceful for a woman to speak in church” (1 Cor. 14:33-35) and, and 1 Timothy 2:11-12 reaffirms that sort of thought when it says that a man should never be taught by a woman.

There are many other examples in the Bible, but this isn’t a post trying to pick apart specific phrases; it’s about looking at the Bible as a whole and why that’s a tough thing to swallow for me personally.  The point is that there are bits and pieces of the Bible that I’m pretty sure I’ll never agree with.  To me, that’s a break in the logical chain – I can never become Christian.  Right?  Well, that’s how I feel sometimes.

“Taking it with a grain of salt” is often confused with “context.”  Context is king, I’ve been told, and I agree.  Context is important.   Context, however, is in the hands of the person interpreting it.  The church has used context to evil ends many times, so it makes me wonder if context is really that important after all.  If we misinterpreted the bible to support segregation (applying a different context to passages in Leviticus and Deuteronomy that said not to mix races), are we now misinterpreting passages that say that homosexuality is wrong?  How are we to know if anything in the Bible is being interpreted correctly if context has caused the church to fracture a hundred different ways over two thousand years?  All of this is sitting on the foundation of the biblical canon being chosen by a bunch of old men in a closed room 400 years after the death of Christ.  Whew.  That’s really tough for me to wrap my head around.

I’ll actually be meeting with a pastor relatively soon to talk about this issue, and I’ll definitely share the results of that conversation.

I don’t intend to solve the problem here, only talk about what’s been on my mind.  If I could eliminate some of the stuff in the Bible that doesn’t make sense to me, I’d probably be more inclined to become a Christian.  In fact, I generally agree with everything that Jesus says all throughout the New Testament. He gives some incredible advice – some of which is tough love, too.  If I could be a Christ-Follower instead of a Christian, I might consider it (though Jesus throws a few curveballs, too).  I think it’s sad that the church focuses a lot more on Paul, who, in my opinion, was kind of an asshole.  But that’s tangential – I’ll write another post on that another time.

I don’t pretend to be a Biblical scholar or apologist, but I do know that if you have to eat the Bible whole, I’m not convinced I can stomach it.  I can’t simply ignore the massive book of violence and God-Wrath that is portions of the Old Testament, how God seems to have turned off his Smite switch when Jesus came around, etc. even if I believe that Jesus had the right idea.  Jesus came to cancel out some of the Old Testament, yes, but not all of it.  If I have to take the Old with the New, the Leviticus with the Luke, or the Paul with the Jesus, I might not want either.

3 Comments

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  1. Hi Joe, Enjoyed your post. This is one of those things that really takes some common sense. If God is a god of intelligence and light, then he doesn’t expect people to believe that the Bible is perfect, as history, various translations, deletions, and intrusions on the text have crept in over the years. Teaching that the Bible text is infallible and perfect is an obvious erroneous teaching.

    Also, some things are unchangeable gospel doctrine, like Do Unto Others…, etc., and some things are policy based on the eras they were implemented, like Paul’s teachings about a woman’s place in meetings. In the Bible, the priesthood was offered to all of God’s worthy people, and then limited to only the Levites during Moses’ time. Justice and revenge that led to slaughter were based on the perceived criminal actions of the enemy at the time. We don’t all have to build an ark, because the Flood has already happened. Policies changed according to God’s will and the times. They’re different than doctrine.

  2. Joe,
    First, forgive my grammatical error as I’m sure there will be many.
    I love this post. You spoke about a topic that so many struggle with and often times write off Christ altogether because of it.

    I feel that you mentioned the solution to this problem. The key to Christianity, as I have found, is to FOLLOW CHRIST. Forgot the westernized idea of what a Christian is or isn’t. Forget what you have been told or have heard from other ppl. Seek out God himself. Ask Him the questions you find yourself puzzled about. He WILL reveal HImself and the answers you so desire.

    I hope that speaking with a pastor will bring some clarity but keep in mind he too is just a man giving you his opinion and experiences. The same God that speaks to him is the same one, that can and will speak to you.

    Keep searching. Keep asking questions. Just know there are something’s you may never know the answer to. I personally feel that the miracle He has done in me is proof enough for me to say “I believe, I will follow!”

    Good Luck!

  3. It’s a toughy ain’t it?

    Having gone through some of this, I’ve ended up carrying myself through life working towards being the best person I can be and I define “best” by my interactions with different people. Everyone has a different understanding of things and I try to understand them even if I don’t necessarily agree.

    I think a lot of what the bible teaches – the good in Christianity that we are pointed towards – you can gain by yourself or simply from putting yourself in many different situations and learning to sympathies, be open minded and patient.

    What I’m basically trying to say is that for me, it is more important to carry the essence of such things than it is to follow what the bible would like me to adhere to. There’s so much I disagree with in the bible that I feel adds little in the way of the message it would like to offer. I’ve got issues with Lot putting out his daughters, God getting rid of S&G but having little to say about Lot’s daughters sleeping with him (???) God asking Abraham to kill his child and the book of Job. These things make me feel uncomfortable and also makes me shy away from following someone who treats people in such a way in order to send messages to his creations. But that’s my issue and I put the bible down years ago, unable to finish it.

    What has happened for me now is that on many occasions people have mistaken me for a christian on the basis of how I act, they’re never specific about what as I never meet these people in church or any such surrounding. Usually it’s random short meetings. But I’m happy to be considered as portraying the good qualities (although this is subjective) of any basic belief or faith. Often it leads to people wanting to take my hand to “complete my journey” but I always decline and tell them I feel comfortable with how I am. If I meet a christian they tell me it’s God doing his work in me. A muslim? It’s Allah. Whichever. I just nod, smile and ask if they could give me a little credit! lol

    I’ll be interested to hear how your meeting goes. ;p

  4. […] I actually wrote a blog article a while ago on this very same principle, and I’ll be damned if I don’t agree at least a little bit with the point here.  If you can interpret Genesis in a loose way, why can’t you interpret, say, the resurrection of Christ as wholly or partially symbolic?  I know those are different sets of circumstances with different historical evidence, though.  So, in dealing with something a bit less controversial, if you can apply historical context to a document and argue that it’s not about what the text says but about what the text means in that context, why can’t you apply it to the phrase “sexual immorality” as used in the New Testament and argue that homosexuality is not a sin according to the bible?  Why couldn’t you, say, use it to create one of 41,000 denominations?  (My tongue may go right through my cheek, here.) […]

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