When conversation on this blog turn to issues of sexuality, as it did this week with Brian McLaren’s View on Homosexuality, there are always some commenters who admit that their Christian faith has broken free of the Bible. For example, R. Jay comments,
I’m a Christian for whom the Bible is not my foundation, not my law code, not my ladder, not my pedestal. I love it dearly, but I don’t need it to know God, and I don’t need it to understand how to love my neighbor fully.
In the absence of the Bible, there is still God. And to know God does not require the Bible. Devotion to it has become the most insidious of all barriers.
Honestly, I understand how some people come to this conclusion. The Bible is a primitive book, coming out of a primitive time. Even the most staunch conservatives should be able to admit that. It is reflective of a different world than the world in which we live. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not applicable to our lives and our time, but that much hermeneutical work needs to be done to understand what it means for us today.
In Brian’s own evolution of how he understand human sexuality, he has not abandoned the Bible,
In this process, I did not reject the Bible. In fact, my love and reverence for the Bible increased when I became more aware of the hermeneutical assumptions on which many now-discredited traditional interpretations were based and defended. I was able to distinguish “what the Bible says” from “what this school of interpretation says the Bible says,” and that helped me in many ways.
Yesterday, Rachel Held Evans proclaimed her love for the Bible. What she really did was talk about how she loves the Bible, using a metaphor that I’ve often used in conversations about the Bible with my friends Nadia Bolz-Weber and Lauren Winner. Here’s Rachel’s metaphor:
It is said that after Jacob wrestled with God, he walked with a limp.
So it has been with the Bible and me.
I have wrestled with the Bible, and it has left me with a limp.
I feel the same kind of relationship with the Bible. I wrestle with it. Sometimes I limp away from the struggle, sometimes the Bible limps away.
I’ve met lots and lots of Christians over the past few years who have forsaken the Bible; their faith is no longer tethered to that text. I get that. I understand the allure of that kind of Christianity.
But I haven’t given up on the Bible because I think that Christianity without the Bible is uninteresting. To put it in the positive, the Bible keeps Christianity interesting. The fact that we’re anchored to this difficult, challenging, primitive, complex, and over-interpreted text makes the Christian faith a challenge. Unmoored from the Bible, Christianity floats into the ether of wispy vapors and feel-goodisms.
I’m not saying that you’re not a Christian if you’ve abandoned the Bible. Constitutive of Christianity is faith in Jesus, not commitment to the Bible — simply the early church confession, “Jesus is Lord!” suffices for faith. I’m saying that for me, Christianity without the Bible seems uninteresting and barely worth the effort.