the Bible’s diverse God–(from The Bible Tells Me So)

the Bible’s diverse God–(from The Bible Tells Me So) September 4, 2014

ForTheBibleTellsMeSo

Looking to the Bible to find out what God is like seems like about the most obvious thing the Bible should hand you on a silver platter. But it doesn’t. You have to work for it.

The God we meet there sometimes knows everything, and other times he’s stumped and trying to figure things out. He’s either set in his ways and in full control or he changes his mind when pressed. He gives one law in one place and then elsewhere lays down another law that requires something else. Sometimes he’s overflowing with compassion and at others times he has a hair-trigger temper.

You’d think the Bible wouldn’t make the God-question harder than applying for a home equity line of credit (which inexplicably took me four months, by the way). If God’s behind the Bible, why doesn’t he just get to it in a five-point summary, or perhaps a white paper with clear answers to everything we need to know so we’re not left scratching our heads and so theologians don’t have to debate for centuries and write five-hundred-page books on “the nature of God?” If the Bible isn’t clear even about big issues like God (!!), what’s it good for?

Maybe the real problem here, once again, isn’t the Bible but expecting from the Bible something it’s not set up to do. Maybe the Bible isn’t God’s owner’s manual to us that answers all our questions about God and lays a script out for us to follow as we walk along the Christian path.

The Bible, as we’ve already seen, is a story—a story of God’s people on their long, diverse, up-and-down, spiritual journey; a story written by different people, under different circumstances, for different reasons, spanning more than a thousand years. It was written during times of peace and war, in safety and exile, in Israel’s youth and chastened adulthood. Its writers were priests, prophets, and kings, separated by time, and geography, not to mention Myers-Briggs personality types.

A book like that isn’t going to be a consistent one-size-fits-all instructional manual that tells us—in all our varied circumstances—how to grow into a life of faith.

A book like that shows us what a life of faith looks like.

As all good stories do, the Bible shapes and molds us by drawing us into its world and inviting us to connect on many different levels, wherever we are on our journey, and to see ourselves better by its light by stirring our spiritual imagination to walk closer with God.

That’s how the Bible acts as a guide for the faithful—by being a story, not by giving us a list of directions disguised as a story.

The Bible Tells Me So: Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us Unable to Read It, pp. 135-36


Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!


TRENDING AT PATHEOS Evangelical
What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Random Guy

    Instead of telling us about God, maybe what it really tells us is about the people who wrote the stories. We can see how the conception of God developed through the ages as culture and technology developed.

    • John

      I have some reservations about referring to the Bible as a coherent unit with a unified theme or purpose. It is a library for a reason. That being said, there are many writings that, to me, seem almost certainly to be a Rorschach test – Revelation being foremost.

  • Aaron Elam

    Is there a way to slip you $5 dollars and get this book now?

  • Lars

    Your description of God sounds a lot like my dad. Or Bruce Banner. However, if we just read the Bible as a story, it’s not nearly so hard to fathom. In fact, it can be kind of fun, like reading a comic book or a graphic novel. And then my mom could finally stop worrying about my eternal destiny!

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    …or perhaps a white paper with clear answers to everything we need to
    know so we’re not left scratching our heads and so theologians don’t
    have to debate for centuries and write five-hundred-page books on “the
    nature of God?”


    You mean like the Koran or Calvin’s Institutes?