Wednesday, August 09, 2006

What the Bible Is Not

I recently read a rather smug piece that described the Bible as "an owner's manual for what God created." I was amused at first at such a simplistic mischaracterization of the Holy Scriptures. As I read, however, I realized that the writer was on a tirade against egalitarians, falsely accusing us of denying the "manual" as well as the Creator. I surfed away from that short little poison pit with a mixture of sadness at such fundamental "missing the point," and anger that someone who knows very well how wrong he is, would enjoy making his false portrayal of his philosophical enemies ("enemies" is his term, not mine) yet again. It's an old, old game. Stupid, really, since anyone who has read any egalitarian writings knows we do not deny either the Bible or God. What we deny is that patriarchy is godly, commanded, or commended in the Scriptures.

Anyway, after the anger dissipated, I realized that this fellow did me one favor. He reminded me that there are lots of ways Christians misuse and mischaracterize the purpose of the Scriptures in order to futher their own agendas. So here's my (unfinished) list of some things the Scriptures are NOT:

1. An "owner's manual." If there's any Owner of anything in the created order, it is the Creator, who hardly needs a manual.

2. An "instruction manual" for life. This is mostly not true. While the Scriptures do contain some instruction, it is incomplete and mostly useless without a vital relationship with the Teacher, the Living incarnate Word of God (Jesus Christ). The promised Counselor, the Holy Spirit living in us, will reveal all the Scriptures have to teach us.

3. A set of "predictions" of the future. The apocalyptic threads of Scripture tell the truth of God about ultimate good and evil, often in allegorical and image-rich ways. The Bible, however, is not intended to be a code book about future events. Guess what, kids? We know the ending, and God wins. Our job is not to predict dates and events, our job is to be faithful in spreading the good news while we look eagerly to the future.

4. A book of law. There are lots of laws in Scripture, some of which we would do well to follow and some which, quite frankly, simply no longer apply in their specifics. We Christians know and follow the Fulfillment of the Law, the Lord Christ himself. He taught us that if we love God with our totality and love neighbor as ourselves, all the specifics of the law will sort themselves out.

5. A blueprint for society. Uh, no. We're to be the salt and light in the society that IS, not remake society over into a theocracy. If we're faithful in spreading the gospel, society will be remade on the level God desires. Anything else is superficial, imposed rather than chosen, and will not last. Society changes for the better when citizens' hearts and lives change.

I look forward to readers' further "The Bible is not..." comments.

11 comments:

D. P. said...

The Bible is not a weapon with which to bludgeon your enemies into submission. Properly used, it can however be a weapon with which God crushes us so that we might grow in Christlikeness.

revabi said...

well said.

SingingOwl said...

It is not the sword with which we attack those who disagree with us. The Bible is the Sword of the Spirit, and it is just as likely to pierce our own pride and error as anyone elses.

SingingOwl said...

Oh fer cryin' out loud! I should have read Dr. P.'s comment first.

The Vicar of Hogsmeade said...

It's not a map. No cleary marked roads or alternate routes or desinated rest areas.

Psalmist said...

Thanks, everyone. I agree with all your observations. Singing Owl, I think your description is significantly different from Dr. P's.

Inheritor of Heaven said...

I agree with both Singing Owl and Dr. P. Harry Wendt says it is like a play in which the principal actor is God. I think it is very much a love letter from God. Only as we know him more and more intimately we can understand this aspect of the Word.

P.S. (an after-thought) said...

My pastor, when commenting on the notions about Biblical literalness, etc. said something like, The Bible is the cradle which holds the baby Jesus. That may be a mangled Luther quote. The contest is that we are to worship the Lord of the Bible, not the Bible itself.

I heard some commentary on the radio by two scientists, who are believers, and apparently have written a book about God, science and the Bible. They said that if God is the creator (which they obviously believed), then He created nature, so He is outside of nature. He isn't bound by nature, nor by the laws of nature, which He created. And He isn't bound by what the Bible says about Him or about the creation (world). And although we believe that God IS and is unchanging, IF He is God, then He can do what He wants to whenever He wants to. If a literalist says that God HAS to be so and so, then that person is limiting God, or actually, believing in a small god.

[I believe that God is a He and also more than a he. But I am limited in my vocabulary and I don't like the awkwardness of other ways of expressing this.]

revabi said...

Psalmist,
This is a comment that is not made to the post about what the Bible is not, but a comment I made on the RGBP post about Ask the Matriarch on Thursday in regards to yours. Here is what I wrote; "Psalmist well said, and it needs to be said. However, too many churches are held hostage by persons like this one. And it is time that churches quit condoning such bad behavior."

I couldn't find an email address for you, so I am posting it here, hoping you'll see it. I basically said that in my original letter, and had some pretty strong words about that situation, that didn't get included. They were maybe too strong for posting. But when you posted your comments, I realized it wasn't so harsh. I appreciate what you had to write and say. It is hard to say the hard thing. Thanks for doing so.

Psalmist said...

Thanks, RevAbi. I know most of the people over at RGBP are clergy or in process to become clergy. Not so many are in shoes like mine, which have stood on both sides of the pulpit but now are solidly lay. In an odd way, I think that gives me a different kind of authority to name what's going on and declare that it should not be. Folks doing things like that can't say to fellow laity, "You don't get it, because you're clergy."

I hope I didn't ruffle too many feathers by saying what I did. I honestly think, as you say, it needed to be said and uncomfortable as it was, I was the person who needed to say it. And I remain indignant that any layperson in any church in which women are ordained, would have the sinful nerve to denigrate female clergy, especially to the face of her female pastor. >:(

Psalmist said...

Tiber Jumper, your advertising is not welcome. Please do not do this in the future. Either engage the posted topic, or do not post comments to this blog.