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.