A Messiah College Old Testament professor named Eric Siebert just posted a shocking piece on Pete Enns’s blog. It’s entitled “When the Good Book is Bad: Challenging the Bible’s Violent Portrayals of God.” You should read it.
If you love the Lord and his Word, it will take your breath away.
You don’t need me to say this, though. Here are a couple of quotations that show just how far this piece is from an evangelical, or even orthodox, conception of Scripture:
Most Christians would attribute this misuse of the Bible to faulty interpretations and misguided interpreters. And this certainly is part of the problem. But, unfortunately, the problem runs deeper than this. It runs right through the pages of Scripture itself.
To put it bluntly: not everything in the “good book” is either good, or good for us. I realize this may sound blasphemous to some people and flies in the face of everything they have been taught to believe about the Bible. When the Church grandly proclaims the Bible to be the Word of God, it gives the impression that the words of Scripture are above critique and beyond reproach. We are taught to read, revere, and embrace the Bible. We are not taught to challenge its values, ethics, or portrayals of God.
So the Bible itself is a “problem.” The words of Scripture are not “beyond reproach.” We should challenge its “portrayals of God.”
Siebert continues in this vein:
Similarly, if we embrace the many positive portrayals of violence in the text (more on this in the next post), we may find ourselves approving of certain acts of violence and war. If we regard Israel’s conquest of Canaan in the book of Joshua as unproblematic, we may find it much easier to legitimize the colonization of indigenous populations.
Thus, if we are going to keep the Bible from harming others, we need to learn to have problems with it. We need to protest what is objectionable and condemn what is immoral. Otherwise, we run the risk of perpetuating the violent legacy of Scripture by making the “good book” behave in very bad ways.
This is a shameful piece. It does not line up with the statement of faith that guides Messiah College. The section on Scripture reads thus: “God gives us the Bible as the inspired, trustworthy and authoritative Scripture to reveal God’s ways and purposes, to nourish our minds and souls, and to instruct us in how we ought to think and to live.” There’s no mention of “inerrancy” here, but there is very clear testimony to the divine inspiration, trustworthiness, and authority of the Bible. At the very least, there is serious friction here between Siebert and his school’s statement of faith.
I’m deeply concerned by this, as one who has had respect for Messiah College. I know a number of alumni, and the school has over the years enjoyed a strong reputation in the Christian community. That a faculty member would publish that that the Bible has material that is “immoral,” “problematic,” and is not fully trustworthy is frightening to me, primarily because of what many Christian students must be encountering in classes ostensibly devoted to building up students’ faith, not tearing it down.
There are “hard parts” of Scripture, to be sure. But the Bible is wholly inspired of God, without error, and therefore totally trustworthy (2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Peter 1:19-21; Numb. 23:19; Ps. 19:7). Whatever God does is right. All that God teaches us in Scripture is right. Christ and his apostles do not indicate at any point that the Old Testament is immoral, and in fact say the opposite. To say otherwise is to indicate that God is not absolutely right, and his word is not trustable.
If his word is not trustable, then our salvation is at the very least in jeopardy, for only Christ, and the Word that truly presents him, has the trustable words of life (John 6:68).