Lately I’ve been wondering what would happen if conservative Christians kept the same notion of a Bible that was verbally inspired, in which God determined precisely what it should contain in every detail, but also took seriously the fact that the Bible contains what appear to be differences of viewpoint, discrepancies, and in some cases apparently irreconcilable contradictions. What if one also approached this matter with the assumption that God is honest, loving, and considerate?
Perhaps, rather than assuming that the difficulties are in the Bible to test our willingness to switch off the minds God gave us, and take a leap of faith (or of gullibility), it could be assumed instead that the difficulties are there to be taken seriously, to teach us.
What we’d end up with is a Bible that can serve fundamentalists’ kindergarten-level needs, but can also help readers get beyond kindergarten, even force us beyond it when the time was right, when we were old enough mentally and spiritually to read carefully and notice details.
But instead, what has happened is that some loud and unruly children who found the new and challenging things they were teaching in first grade too much to bear, went back and took over the kindergarten, and told those in it that the Principal wants them to stay there, and that those who leave kindergarten because they come to find it unsatisfying or problematic are backsliding. And alas, many identify Christianity itself with the loud voices of these unruly, overgrown kindergarten kids. But what if God has providentially placed in the Bible clues that are meant to lead you to eventually realize that what God wants from you is precisely what the loud voices of fundamentalism condemn: taking responsibility for your own actions, for your moral judgments, and learning to live with uncertainty, yet not without faith?
My appeal to fundamentalists is this: try approaching the Bible as though you actually believe what you claim to: (1) that God is honest, (2) that God means for you to study the Bible carefully and in detail, and (3) that God put everything that is in the Bible there for a reason.
Maybe it will enable you to finally stop repeating kindergarten and graduate to first grade. Eventually you’ll face some spiritually tough years, spiritual ‘adolescence’. But spiritual maturity and adulthood await you on the other side, and if you’re willing to be honest about doubts and questions, there are many, many Christians who will help you. In spite of what you’ve heard, there are a lot of teachers, resources, friends, and interesting experiences God has in store for you beyond the comfort of kindergarten.
You probably don’t want to merely play with blocks your whole life (although LEGOs never stop being fun). Why settle for the spiritual equivalent of doing just that?