The Bible is a Book.

The Bible is a book.  It is words on paper.  In and of itself, aside from the presence or essence of God or true revelation, it is only a tool.  It is incredibly dangerous to think otherwise.  Perhaps by saying that straight off and not giving context I’m doing my readers a disservice, but when trying to decide how to write this particular stream of thought I just kept coming back to starting with what I really believe.

I really believe that the Bible is a book.  It is a divinely inspired book, and it is capable of giving life and truth and hope, but simply because something is capable of doing another thing does not mean that it does it all the time.  Water is capable of preserving your life but can also take it.  Many things can be one way but are also another way in another context- and likewise the Bible can be used to give life but has also been used as a defense for taking it.  It can be used to share truth but has been twisted into lies.  The Bible can be used to find God- but that doesn’t mean that the essence of God is always found there.

Maybe I should talk about this another way.  I write.  And as a writer I know that no matter how carefully chosen my words are, I have no control over the way people interpret them.  There’s what I mean, there’s what I write, and there’s what you read.  And the Bible is like that: there is what God inspired, there is what men wrote, and there’s what the reader interprets.  And just because God inspired the original text doesn’t mean that He meant for you to interpret it the way you did.

NT Wright has a really intriguing article about Biblical Authority in which he basically says that when Christians talk about the Bible as an authoritative work they rarely mean what they say.  Either they mean to say that their interpretation of it is authoritative, or Christian belief is Authoritative, or actually that God is authoritative.  But you can’t sincerely say that the Bible, in and of itself, is authoritative.  Now, back to my own opinion: the Bible is a narrative.  It’s not a set of rules, regulations, or formulas that can be plastered across everyone’s life to the same affect.  While all of those things can be found in the Bible, I must say (with fear and trembling) that they have little intrinsic worth.  And I mean that sincerely.  The law, absent the revelation of God’s love, will bring only death.  That is why Christ came to the earth to die- to free us from the law of sin and death.

And it’s really a shame that we’ve taken that sacrifice as an opportunity to institute more of the same.

But I’m losing myself.  I came to talk about the worth of the Biblical text.  And what I want to say is this: It is worth little without the revelation of God’s love for you.  If you read it looking for God’s love, you’ll find it.  If you read it with God’s love in your heart, it will give you life.  Otherwise it’s just words.  Because, as NT Wright so brilliantly stated in his article, the Bible doesn’t turn to itself as an authority.  The Bible turns to God and revelation of God as the final Authority.

We as Christians should do the same.

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15 thoughts on “The Bible is a Book.

  1. You know Lindsey, I’m glad you wrote this. I agree with much of what you have shared here.

    “Now, back to my own opinion: the Bible is a narrative. It’s not a set of rules, regulations, or formulas that can be plastered across anyone’s life to the same affect.”

    I believe it’s when we start using the bible in this manner that we can actually become very dangerous to one another.

    I have come to learn that there are many different, realistic factors that one has to take in to consideration in order to have a greater understanding of what the bible is saying on a certain matter.

  2. I like what you wrote here: “The Bible is a book. It is words on paper. In and of itself, aside from the presence or essence of God or true revelation, it is only a tool.”

    So, I have a question for you.
    What are your thoughts about my blog entry about Yeshua HaMashiach?

    http://777denny.wordpress.com/2009/01/09/grapejuice-evangelicalism-versus-jesus-christ-the-gift-of-eternal-life/

    Thank you,
    777denny

    James 2:1-13
    1 Timothy 4:16
    Luke 15:4
    1 Timothy 1:3-7
    Titus 1:9

  3. Great post. I always have a hard time talking to people who believe the Bible is God’s words whispered into their ears. Ok, I can give them the benefit of the doubt that God was whispering in the original writers’ ears, but it’s hard to imagine all those different texts, all those different copies. Someone, somewhere interpreted something different. Look at the copies of the Bible that actually have Thou Shalt Kill. I mean oops.

  4. My favorite part, right here:

    “There’s what I mean, there’s what I write, and there’s what you read. And the Bible is like that: there is what God inspired, there is what men wrote, and there’s what the reader interprets. And just because God inspired the original text doesn’t mean that He meant for you to interpret it the way you did.”

    I wish there was a way to get more people to understand this. I arrived at my conclusion that what I had been taught my whole life, that homosexuality is a sin, is incorrect, because I recognized the very thing you stated above; because I read the books of people who are smarter than I which explained the various possible interpretations of the passages that speak against it, and because I prayed and mediated about it and listened to my spirit. What I learned was that, while there are many things that go on in the gay community that are not right, being gay, in and of itself, is not sinful or wrong.

    I could never have accepted that fact if I had not first accepted as truth, what you have written here.

    Thank you.

  5. This post really touched on a few things I’ve been looking into lately. Let me start by saying that most of the people in my life do seem to think that the Bible as authoritative; they see it as a guidebook of rules and regulations which must be followed. How many times have I heard, “But the Bible says…”.

    Now, I took to reading random passages of my Bible regularly for a while there and ran into a few problems. One night I’d be working on one chapter and I would be understanding it extremely well and feeling comforted. Then the next night, I’d pick another passage and it would say something completely contradictory (this was in the NT, because I find the frequent violence in the OT so repulsive that I disregard it). The Bible basically left me thinking “What the #$@%?” on my occasions. I wanted to start recording the problems I was finding, but luckily a few people have already done it for me.

    A month back, I began reading the works of Thomas Paine who was a deist. His analysis of the Bible made a lot of sense. That coupled with another list of all the contradictions, inconsistencies, fatal flaws, errors, violence etc. has caused me to view the Bible as nothing more than just a book w/ about as much authoritative value as my local newspaper, maybe less. I do not believe that The Bible was divinely-inspired in anyway shape or form. If it had been inspired by God then it would have been a much more complete, detailed and concise piece of work leaving the human race with no confusion whatsoever regarding what God wants us to know.

    There are so many things that the Bible scantly addresses. Homosexuality is one of them. There are 66 books, hundreds of thousands of verses and those which slightly discuss homosexuality are only a half dozen or so. If God intended it to be an instruction manual, well He would’ve done a better job of it that’s for sure.

    What I have concluded is that the Bible is nothing more than a collection of writings recording different peoples’ experiences with God. Which is pretty much what you seem to have said minus that it was divinely-inspired. Each story is of no more value than any of my own stories of experiences with God. It seems that in the OT the Isrealites did a lot of creating God in their own image. Which explains why God seems to condone all the violence and atrocities. Meanwhile, the NT can’t seem to make it’s mind up on how Christians are supposed to live their lives or even how it is that we can be assured of salvation.

    I’ve always wondered why Christianity was so messed up. I’m refering to all of the division, different sects, arguing, hatred, prejudice, bigotry and scare tactics. The Christian religion can’t help it. It’s attempting to use a book that was never intended to be an instruction manual as it’s guide. No wonder. The Bible says some good and bad things, but should ultimately be read and applied very carefully, if at all. Realizing that The Bible is just a book and nothing more has been very liberating. It will be especially handy the next time someone tries to shake the Bible in my face and tell me I have to follow what the thing supposedly says.

    Anyway, really good post.

  6. Hi! thewrittenwordreviews told me to check you out, and I have say, good advice on their part and yours.

    “There’s what I mean, there’s what I write, and there’s what you read.”

    I know exactly what you mean (as I am occasionally stunned at what some people have thought I meant), and I have always felt this way about the bible. Generally, when somebody says “The bible said”, you just know what comes next is going to be horrible.

    I spend a lot of my time wading through some of the most hateful, bigoted, frightening interpretations of a very simple message: Be nice to people. It’s nice to be reminded that “Christian” does not mean “hateful asshat with serious issues”.

    Thank you.

  7. Wow, thank you for writing this amazing post! But it really bothers me that so many take Genesis literally and completely seriously do so. Don’t they realize that it’s impossible for God to contradict himself like that?

    I think it was written by people who were Looking for God. No direct contact though. He naturally would have used visions and dreams many times, and a lot of what was said was said in the tongue of the times, so obviously it isn’t going to completely synchronize up with modern understandings of the earth and its place in the universe.

    Anyway, there is one such person here that thinks that way, and i would love to see the interaction between you two: http://siriusknotts.wordpress.com/

    I look forward to it 🙂 And yours is a great site, for anyone.

  8. Thanks everyone! I wish I had time to respond to each comment individually, but unfortunately I’m (as usual) really rushed right now.

    So, to Rickroll and Personal Failure: Welcome to my blog! I hope you guys stay around for some of the fun stuff. I’ve been taking a little break from my more controversial posts (not as much gay-hugging and evolution-agreeing-with and pro-choice politicizing as happens from time to time) but hopefully you’ve gotten the general feel for what I’m about: faith, yes, but not without reason and measure and compassion for those that don’t share my doctrine.

    To all of my lovely readers who don’t share my sexual orientation: it’s all about context, isn’t it? The world is simply a different place than it was in Biblical times, we know things we didn’t know then, and the soci-economic climate no longer depends on straight marriage and childbearing. But that’s a bit of a topic for another day. Hm…

    And as for arguments about the Bible’s relevance as a historical document and the whole Genesis of humanity thing… When I myself read through the Bible, I find many passages that are written in the old-school mythological style. Genesis is a creation story, much in the same vein as you’d find in any religious tradition. But I don’t know that we should ever take these things as word for word truth.

    Even the Apostle John sort of “re-created” the creation myth of Christianity by starting out his gospel as “in the beginning the Word was with God…” Making the crux of creation not just about Father God but also about Jesus and redemption.

    Anyway, another rabbit trail. I have a hard time keeping my mind firmly in place these days.

    I believe in evolution and science, I believe in facts and data and evidence. As I’ve heard other evolution-believing Christians say- the more we understand about the improbability of our natural existence, the more we can be awed by God anyway. It would take a powerful force to make all we have out of primordial jam.

  9. Just wanted to stop bye and say: as a liberal, fence sitting, atheist hugging, apostate false Christian, You totally kick John Shore’s ass lol!! 🙂

    For one, you haven’t banned me… yet lol

    I think i also ought to endorse my pal Morsec0de, and his suddenly atheist blog here on WordPress! You will like him. He’s a nice guy. and he makes funny Youtube videos lol. I’ll try to comment more often.

  10. ummm, i can’t find my way around your site! I left a comment- a long one, so i want to keep tabs on it -on a post about Hell and Universal Salvation. could you help?

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