In the first segment of this blog, What Happened to My Bible, I dealt with some tough questions. I presented some challenging ideas, and did not directly address the controversy that sparked the blog. In this second installment, I will be asking a few more tough questions. Thankfully, true to form with social media, the fire of the NIV scandal has died down and been replaced by another hot topic. Even though it is not the trending topic any more, for those who care about pesky things like facts and truth, it is important that we continue to discuss this so that we can mature.
The first question I'd like to pose is "why is it so important to many Christians that the Bible has been preserved without error?"
I'd also like to ask, "why do we think that God would keep a book from error, yet allow mankind to sin and be placed in danger of eternal torment in hellfire?"
I am quite amazed at how many people really don't know much of ANYTHING about the origins of the Bible. I was out doing street ministry and spoke with a young lady who is facing some very serious, life threatening challenges. There is a passage in the Bible that I felt would bring her comfort, so I asked her if she had a Bible. She responded, "Oh, yeah. I got seven. I got the original Bible, the Catholic Bible, the Jehovah's Witness Bible… which one you want me to read?"
By "original Bible" she meant the King James Version. I would guess that a strong majority of American Christians, specifically in the African American church, believe the KJV is the original Bible. There's a running joke between some of my friends and I that "if the KJV was good enough for Paul, it's good enough for me." We change the name of the person using Jesus, Daniel, Adam, etc., but the point of the joke is no one in the Bible actually had one at all.
The Bible has been elevated to a level of deity and as I have grown in my relationship with God, and understanding of church history, I become increasingly alarmed by this trend. I confess, for many years I was a victim of this mentality. I stood on the word and anything that didn't line up (with my [pastor's] interpretation) had to go.
It would be one thing if the atheists and people of other faiths were ignorant about the Bible, but it is Christians who seem to know the least. Many Christians have built their faith on a book (they haven't read), and refuse to even consider the facts about it. Yet, they defend it blindly and choose to ignore logic, facts, and history.
One of my Facebook posts sparked a conversation about how the Bible as we know it was assembled. A minister who had been defending the "King James Only" position later chimed in and said he had never heard about a council deciding on which writings to include. He just thought the Bible has always been what it is. He had no idea about the Apocrypha being included in the earliest King James Version. He also did not know how highly disputed Revelation was and still is today. He had been taught the Bible is God's Word and you don't mess with it - you don't add or take away - so he assumed it was God's Word and had never been messed with.
I share that example because it is common place. The people who are in position to teach have not been taught themselves. While many of the ministers in this tradition say they don't need to be taught because they have the Holy Ghost, they continue to pass along misinformation and error because they have not studied. I came across another Facebook post where a friend shared a photo of a book he was reading about books not included in the New Testament. It was REVOLUTIONARY to so many people. They had no idea other writings had been considered for the Bible and that many early Christians considered them to be inspired.
(If you follow the ministry regularly, you know that the Bible is home base for us. We teach from it constantly and highly esteem it as being uniquely inspired and highly profitable for us. It is the best starting point to learn about Jesus. This blog is not intended to cause you to abandon Bible study. My aim and hope is that you begin to think about things you have thought about before, cultivating a relationship with the Person of God, allowing you to be free from dogmatic doctrine that breed disunity and oppression.)
I would like this blog to leave you with more questions than answers. Bibliolatry - Bible worship - is rampant throughout the modern church, and that needs to be addressed. Rather than write a blog about how wrong it is, I'd rather simply spark a conversation. I've been known to take a bull in a china shop approach with topics like this in the past, but I've learned that it often does more harm than good.
So here's another question: Have you heard the term sola scriptura? If not, take a moment and research it. In a nutshell, sola scriptura is the idea the Scripture alone is authoritative for Christian faith. It stems from the protestant reformation (protestors) that came against the Catholic Church tradition. While this was much needed and has help propel us to where we are today, it was as much an error as what it was seeking to correct.
I attended a Bible study recently where the question was asked, "Does God still speak today?" The leader of the study answered "Through the Bible." He went on to explain that if God was still speaking then there could be a 67th, 68th, 69th, book of the Bible. I had to muster up some serious restraint not to blurt out "Holy Spirit, much?!?" I could not believe that he would limit God to a collection of writings thousands of years removed from us, especially given the fact that Jesus promised us His Spirit.
What has happened is instead of allowing the Scripture to guide us as a starting point, we have made it the end all be all. We have adopted the notion that if I can find a verse of scripture to stand on, then God has to move. If there is a verse for it, then I can do it. If there is a verse against it, then you're going to hell for doing it. (This may seem like I'm exaggerating and being radical, but in this moment, sadly, I am writing without hyperbole.)
We must also consider the matter of interpreting ancient texts. Just a few decades ago "far out" meant "this is awesome." However, if I tweeted "My church is far out" most of you would understand me to be saying my church is a great distance away. This is just the way language has changed in a few decades. The Biblical texts are thousands of years old, and translated from languages that are not widely used today. Is there any wonder that there are dozens of translations, and hundreds of interpretations of the same passages? So even if the Bible was hand written by God, there would still be discrepancies in our understanding simply because of how much language and culture has changed over the past 2,000+ years. Thankfully, we are not left with only a book to try and get to know God. We have the very Spirit of God who helps us, guides us, teaches us, and has a real relationship with us.
So I ask you this: Have you made the Bible your God? What would happen to your relationship with God if your book disappeared? What would you say to the millions, perhaps billions of Christians who lived their whole lives without a Bible? Can you accept the Bible as profitable and inspired without it being perfect?
There is still much to say about this…
Pastor Will Rucker teaches the importance of placing faith in Jesus, the Invisible God live from Freedom Life Grace Church in Las Vegas, Nevada.