I’m pretty lucky to have conversations with Christians from a variety of backgrounds and cultures. Usually, those conversations go great—but occasionally they’re a disaster. I know there’s a problem the minute they tell me, “the Bible clearly says.” It’s at that point I start looking for the exit.
When you drop a phrase like that into a conversation, it’s evident that you don’t understand how communication works. We’re talking about a document where it’s on us to build a bridge between different cultures, worldviews, languages, etc. There’s no question that the Bible makes statements that are clearer than others, but even then we have to wrestle with some of the differences between cultures separated by thousands of years.
This isn’t because of some “progressive” desire to undermine the Bible’s authority, or because of a desire to wriggle out of personal responsibility. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. I often find that the people who are serious about contending with these questions take the Bible far more seriously than those who just take what they see at face value without asking tough questions. In fact, I find a lot of the people that use this conversation ender aren’t overly familiar with Scripture.
So let’s take a look at some things the Bible clearly says—things that you’d be crazy to take at face value:
1. Do not allow a sorceress to live.
What are you going to do about that Wiccan down the street? The Bible has given you your marching orders. (Please do not follow them.)
2. Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the cruel.
(1 Peter 2:18)
There was a time when Christians used the Bible’s explicit teachings about slavery as a reason not to abolish the slave trade. What do you do when the Bible isn’t not only vague about slavery but places the onus on slaves to submit to cruel masters?
3. If she grabs your junk while you’re fighting someone else, show her no pity.
The actual two verses read this way:
If two men are fighting and the wife of one of them comes to rescue her husband from his assailant, and she reaches out and seizes him by his private parts, you shall cut off her hand. Show her no pity.
Crimony. Was this a problem that needed a solution? Either way, the Bible clearly gives a solution to this embarrassing problem.
4. No one who has been emasculated by crushing or cutting may enter the assembly of the Lord.
Had an accident that impacted your privates? Stay the heck out of the church.
5. The men of her town shall stone her to death.
What do you do if your daughter loses her virginity before marriage? Be careful how you answer—because this is what the Bible clearly says:
If, however, the charge is true and no proof of the young woman’s virginity can be found, she shall be brought to the door of her father’s house and there the men of her town shall stone her to death. She has done an outrageous thing in Israel by being promiscuous while still in her father’s house. You must purge the evil from among you.
6. Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.
Seems harsh, right? Too bad.
7. God encourages the murder of pagan children—and infants
(Hosea 13:4, 9, 16)
You shall acknowledge no God but me. . . . You are destroyed, Israel. . . . The people of Samaria must bear their guilt, because they have rebelled against their God. They will fall by the sword; their little ones will be dashed to the ground, their pregnant women ripped open.
It’s kind of hard to maintain a pro-life stance in the face of this clear statement in the Bible. Maybe we should only worry about Christian fetuses?
But what about . . .
If your natural desire to any of these (or the hundreds of others) is to explain to me why I’m misrepresenting them, congratulations! You are beginning to get my point. But first, you need to recognize that these are things the Bible clearly says. They’re not obscure passages being twisted to make a point. They’re explicit statements that you need to do some interpretive work to understand and justify.
Stop trying to shut people down with “the Bible clearly says,” unless you plan on executing disobedient children.