Things We Act Like the Bible Says (But it Really Doesn’t)

On persecution:
“Blessed are you when you are persecuted, for you have the full power of the Roman army behind you to start a war with and kill your enemies.”

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On identity:
“By this, all people will know you are my followers: that you all believe the same doctrine.”

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On vengeance:
“‘Vengeance is the military’s,’ saith the Lord.”

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On helping people:
Ten lepers came to Jesus and asked to be healed. Jesus asked them, “Have you already been to the synagogue down the street asking for help?” When they answered affirmatively, Jesus replied, “Then I can have no compassion on you, for I would be enabling you in the lifestyle you have chosen for yourself.” And he would not heal them.

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On salvation:
“On that day, God will separate the earth like a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. To the sheep on his right, he will say, ‘Come, take your inheritance, for you accepted me into your heart as your personal Lord and Savior by saying a prayer.’ To the goats on his left, he will say, ‘Depart from me, for you never prayed the sinner’s prayer and accepted me into your heart as your personal Lord and Savior.'”

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On matters of first importance:
“And so what I have received I have delivered to you as of first importance: you must stop the homosexual agenda, according to the Scriptures, and you must refuse to protect or show common decency to others so that they will know they are sinners.”

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On the beginning:
“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth in six literal, historical days less than 10,000 years ago, and there is absolutely no way this could in any way be poetic or allegorical. Anyone who believes otherwise should be taken outside the camp and stoned.”

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On clarification for those weird rules:
“That stuff about slavery, stoning people to death, genocide, and infanticide? I didn’t really mean all that. But that stuff about the gays? Totally meant that.”

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On loving your enemies:
“If you love those who love you, that’s good enough. You’ll fit right in with the world and not rock any boats. Why would anyone love those who hate and persecute them? Just bomb them and get rid of the problem.”

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On Christmas:
“And lo, the baby lying in swaddling cloths in a manger came to usher in an era where every cashier said ‘Merry Christmas’ instead of ‘Happy Holidays,’ and where plastic dolls bearing his likeness would be placed on every public space. In such a way, the Kingdom of God would be spread over the entire creation.”

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On the rich:
“Blessed are the rich, for they work harder than everyone else and God’s hand of blessing is upon them.”

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Add your own in the comments.

Evolving Faith: What Does it Mean?

If we now understand that all the authors of the Bible did not believe the same things as one another on some pretty foundational issues such monotheism, the afterlife, and morality, what impact does that have on our faith?

One could look at all of this and conclude there is no way the Bible can be true. It’s obviously written by humans, and this whole “given to man by God” thing is made up. Fair enough. But the other option is to conclude now, more than ever, the Bible must be true. After all, it’s obviously written by humans, and this whole “given to man by God” thing is made up.

Let me explain.

There are some religions and faith systems out there who claim their holy book or books were delivered to mankind straight from the mouth of God. For those faith systems, it is troublesome and embarrassing to find inaccuracies and errors in their holy texts, because it necessarily means their deity was incorrect. And who wants to follow/worship/devote their life to an incorrect deity?

The Bible never claims to be delivered straight from God to man. Instead, it is a collection of writings, written by human beings to other human beings within specific cultures, specific times, and specific settings. Now, Christians believe that somehow these stories that these human beings wrote down were inspired by God, but somewhere in the last few hundred years of modernity we’ve come to the extra-biblical (unbiblical?) conclusion “inspiration” means “dictated directly from the mouth of God.”

For some reason, we’ve taken the Bible and made it out to be something it never even claims itself to be.

Largely, religions do this to settle the matter of authority. If their book comes directly from the mouth of God, people will then need to heed it — or else they are choosing to not listen to God. It infuses their belief system with an extra large dose of legitimacy in their eyes.

Ironically, that line of reasoning is the same thing that delegitimizes the faith.

By attempting to shoehorn the Bible into this foreign shape, we set it — and our faith structure — up to fail from the beginning. Instead, what if we began accepting the Bible for what it truly is? If we start approaching, reading, and understanding the Bible as a collection of stories rather than a deity’s dictation, how much more does that open up beauty and truth to us? How much more might we understand the very heart of God this book is attempting to communicate?

When you view Scripture as a dictation from God, it is a huge problem that the Bible advocates for henotheism at the beginning and then transitions into monotheism. It’s a serious issue that the book teaches there is no afterlife at first and then adds one in later on. And it is an incredible dilemma that the mark of “good” morality continually gets adjusted throughout.

But if you see this as a collection of stories, suddenly those become no big deal at all — because these are stories about people trying to figure out who God is and how they relate to him. These are stories of people who lived in ancient, barbaric times and grew up with the rest of the world into a civilized society. These are stories of people trying to figure out better ways of doing things, of treating people, of understanding the world, of living. And so it comes as absolutely no surprise that the stories and beliefs change and grow over the years.

In fact, to me, it makes it even more likely that the stories are true. Not necessarily literally and historically accurate (Jonah and Job, I’m looking at you), but true. I’m much more interested in a story where the characters evolve and grow and change — and expect those who come after them to do the same — than I am in a fabricated story that appears in a moment of time and remains static forever after.

Again, it is so ironic to me that we’ve managed to take the Bible out of that first living, breathing category and shoved it haphazardly into the lifeless second.

Just because it grows and evolves along with the people who are writing it and living it doesn’t mean the Bible is just like any other book. In fact, the Apostle Paul believed Scripture to be so special and unique that he invented a brand new word to describe it: theopneustos. Literally, “God breathed.” That’s the word we interpret in English as “inspired” — it comes from God. But notice the connotation: it’s God-breathed, not God-dictated. It’s life-giving, just like God’s breath at the moment of creation in the Garden, not lifeless and static. It’s gently influenced with a breath, not tightly held under a heavy thumb of direction.

The Bible is true. It is authoritative. It is inspired. It speaks to the human condition, to the core of who we are, and directs us to continue this journey of discovering who God is and how we relate to him. And when we stop trying to make the Bible something it’s not, we will be free to experience the joy, the freedom, the grace, and the incredible sacrificial love through which that journey leads us.