The two biggest challenges the Bible brings to anyone caring to take it seriously are no mystery: the Good Book is extraordinarily (if not, let’s face it, miraculously) complex, and so vague that one or more of its passages can be used as “proof” for just about any imaginable assertion. I could claim that Bozo was God come to earth to show the world what all men would look like in the future, and find Bible quotes to support it. “The Church of the Future Bozo” would be up and running in a week. I’d make a fortune on huge floppy shoes alone.
That the Bible is as complex and, shall we say, non-linear as it is presents a massive problem for Christians and their system of belief. Because if there’s one thing people like it’s being extremely, perfect clear about whatever it is they believe. Organically, we’re a dogmatic race. We like black and white, yes and no, on and off, right and wrong. We’re big on the binary.
And it’s totally natural we’d have such a predilection for clear opposites. Our physical lives are absolutely dominated by them. Day and night. Man and woman. Up and down. Dead or alive.
How can we not be instinctively drawn toward definites, when our entire existence is defined by them?
The problem is that while our external lives are wholly determined by clear and tangible opposites, our internal lives are a churning miasma of conflicting imperatives. More than they’re anything else—and way more than people are generally comfortable admitting—humans are emotional beings. We are our emotions. And emotions fit into binary categories like Bozo fits into a confessional booth.So we take our overriding, external paradigm of static, well-defined opposites, mix it with our dynamic, ever-changing yin-and-yang emotional desires, and then bring all of that to the Bible, which, because of its complex density, stands ever ready to accommodate and support whatever combination of heart and mind accesses it.
And voila: today, as yesterday and surely as tomorrow, we have just about as many kinds of Christianity as we do kinds of individual people. And every Christian is dead positive that their version of Christianity is the one, true Christianity. From “God Hates Fags” to “All Dogs Go To Heaven,” there’s a theology for every Christian. And every Christian is confident that their take on God is the sublimely correct one, if for no other reason than (whether they admit it or not) it perfectly suits them personally.
And then people who are intrinsically drawn to believe in the same sort of God group together into denominations and sects and so forth, and we get the kind of internecine Christian tribalism that, at the very least, serves as conclusive proof to so many non-Christians that all Christians are bonkers, since they can’t even agree on what exactly it is they believe.
Fascinating, no? And surely anticipated by God.
Now, why would he want that, do you think?