Loving the Bible

Mark Bilby writes:

It is precisely because I respect these texts that I let them speak for themselves and try my best to listen to other ancient voices that would help me hear what was originally being intended in these texts. Because I respect these texts, I let them be whatever they really are, in all of their complexity, their inconsistencies, their biases, etc.

Studying Scripture academically is kinda like falling in love. At first, you believe that your beloved is perfect, flawless, and incomparable. And nobody could convince you otherwise, try as they may. That was definitely me when I was in my late teens and early twenties, so I get where some of you are coming from.

But if you give love time and cultivate it with prolonged, honest intimacy, they you will eventually come to see that your beloved is actually very imperfect, but still beloved in spite of and even because of these imperfections.

That’s real love. Not making your beloved into something different, but letting your beloved be exactly what your beloved really is.

So we need to be careful to respect these ancient texts enough to let them say whatever it is they are saying, even if we find it to be historically problematic or inaccurate when compared with other sources of information. Our pre-existing assumptions that these texts have to be historically accurate and perfect are far more a self-reflection of our needs rather than an objective interpretation of these texts in their original historical and literary contexts.

Read the rest of the post on his blog Voces Anticae. See also Derek Penwell’s post on a similar theme, in which he wrote:

Liberal Christians love the Bible. No, seriously. We love the Bible. We just refuse to treat it as though it is a set of timeless golden tablets that says all that needs to be said once and for all about everything of importance…

Look. If Christians are ever going to establish credibility with anyone besides themselves, they’re going to have to start reading the Bible through the same eyes as the people with whom Jesus spent most of his time—those folks whom the religious power brokers are convinced don’t quite measure up.

The problem with assuming liberal Christians hate the Bible isn’t just that it fails to take liberals seriously, but that it fails to take the Bible seriously.

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  • Phil Ledgerwood

    I have used the loving relationship analogy many times, myself, but a little differently.

    A fundamentalist view of Scripture is like someone who who worships the ground their wife walks on in terms of reverencing her and praising her, but she isn’t allowed to speak for herself very often and she is expected to conform to all these standards her husband has whether she actually does or not. This view of the Bible is sort of like the stereotypical “pastor’s wife” as viewed by a congregation.

  • Docetism is alive and well, despite being declared heretical, the uneasiness about “humanness” has always been just under the surface theologically in the church. It can be seen in the “perpetual virginity” of Mary, Jesus’ mother, conservative backlash over films like the “Last Temptation of Christ,” and any insistence on the humanity of scripture. On my own blog I was once asked if I believed Jesus was inerrant, the questioner insisting that if not, then Jesus was no better than any other religious figure and could not be trusted to impart spiritual truth.

    • I often respond to such claims, whether about the Bible or about Jesus, by asking people about their parents. Does the fact that our parents are fallible mean that there is no reason to listen to them, that they have no wisdom to impart?

      The whole stance in each case is an attempt to, on the one hand, avoid the need for human reasoning in debate, while on the other, ascribing divine authority to what is in fact one’s own reasoning!