Just which Bible are you reading?

I’m not the only one to point out that the Bible can be used to support very, very different things. Even Barack Obama has made this point:

In case you’re having trouble reading that, here you go:

And even if we did have only Christians in our midst, if we expelled every non-Christian from the United States of America, whose Christianity would we teach in the schools? Would it be James Dobson’s, or Al Sharpton’s? Which passages of Scripture should guide our public policy? Should we go with Leviticus, which suggests slavery is OK and that eating shellfish is an abomination? Or we could go with Deuteronomy, which suggests stoning your child if he strays from the faith. Or should we just stick to the Sermon on the Mount — a passage that is so radical that it’s doubtful that our own Defense Department would survive its application?

This is what I mean when I say that the Bible is such a diverse – and even contradictory – book that it can be used to support, well, just about anything, from patriarchy to feminism, from hellfire to universalism. It all depends on how you interpret it, which verses you emphasize, etc.

About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • Some guy

    Which is why the doctrine of sola scriptura is so rediculous.

  • Some guy

    err.. *ridiculous. Sorry.

  • David Jackson

    Thank you for fixing the misspelling of “its” when transcribing.

  • http://bunnystuff.wordpress.com/ Jaimie

    Too true. I went to a Christian school where we were well versed in Doctrine. And let me tell you, we were right and everyone else was wrong. In fact, they went through each denomination to tell us exactly what point it was where they were wrong. Even as indoctrinated as I was back then, the whole thing made me sick. Believe me, with people like this it doesn’t matter if gays or abortions suddenly disappeared. They will find something to fight about. They are obsessed with moral superiority and will get it even at the expense of their own Christians brothers and sisters.

  • http://tellmewhytheworldisweird.blogspot.com/ perfectnumber628

    Yes- so true! The bible says a lot of things, and it can be weird and confusing and not clear. Every Christian has reasons for “picking and choosing” what parts to emphasize. I think the bible is not meant to be an instruction book of clear answers. It’s meant to be something for Christians (like me) to struggle with and question, and somehow see the character of God through that.

  • Ken

    No, no, no. You guys are missing the “burden is light and yoke is easy” part. Now change your misguided thinking or face God’s everlasting wrath.

    Have a nice day

    • http://blog.luigiscorner.com Azel

      I’m no donkey and your God doesn’t exist.

      Nice day to you too.

  • Frank

    This is exactly why we cannot pick and choose. We must take the whole text without removing, ignoring or reinventing meaning.

    • http://blog.luigiscorner.com Azel

      I am afraid that isn’t possible: the Bible is hardly consistent. Two examples: are we saved by faith alone (Ephesians Ephesians 2:8-10) or by faith and works (James 2:24) ? And do we kill the children for their fathers sins or not (Isaiah 14:21 versus Deuteronomy 24:16) ? In face of these inconsistencies, we have to choose if the text is to have value.
      Another reason why the text is reinterpreted is that its rules were done in another time, far removed from ours. So many of its rules are simply irrelevant, and others need quite a bit of creative interpretation to be of any use.

      • Christine

        I was reading “Creation or Evolution: Do we have to choose?” (I don’t recommend it, unless you’re a hardcore Bible literalist, it’s just depressing otherwise). Part of the reason I say it’s depressing is that it has to devote several paragraphs to explaining that there’s no such thing as just reading the Bible without interpreting it. After I got to that part I decided that I wasn’t *that* bored, I’d find something else to read.

  • http://www.predatory-lies.com Abby Kelly

    When the Bible is taken and interpreted according to the culture in which it was written it is absolutely not contradictory in any way. If you read the Bible and take all of it into account, realizing the radical change from law to grace with Christ’s coming, death and resurrection, then you can easily reconcile the “cruel” passages of the Old Testament and its laws with the freedom and grace found in Christ alone, of the New Testament. It seems contradictory when you only know portions. Any book can seem contradictory if you choose to read unrelated segments and attempt to make your own new story.

    • http://blog.luigiscorner.com Azel

      I am afraid it is very much contradictory…and I am not even talking about contradictions between Old and New Testament. Two examples, one for each covenant. Old Testament example:God is in record commanding the killing of children for their fathers iniquities (Isaiah 14:21), act which is explicitly against the law it gave to Israel (Deuteronomy 24:16). So, if a voice ask me to do an act contrary to God’s law, I can’t even be sure it isn’t a devil tempting me ? That means even a basic criterion for recognising God’s commands in inapplicable, what a joy…New Testament example: even the apostles don’t manage to be in accord regarding salvation. Are we saved by faith, as Paul holds in Galatians 2:16, or by works, as Peter holds in 1 Peter 1:17.

  • http://www.bible-reflections.net Joel Mennie

    I want a hermeneutic that continually points me to Jesus, The Way, The Truth and The Life. And over and over again, it does.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    Thanks for posting on this. Did you see my post with the same image and focusing on the same quote, also on Patheos?

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/2012/07/folks-havent-been-reading-their-bibles-barack-obama-on-religion-and-public-policy.html

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

      Yes I saw your post, and that’s where I saw the image, which is why I linked the post at the very beginning of mine. :-)


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