Listen instead of reading HERE.
Half of my audience are bible readers, the other half isn’t. Some prefer I just left the bible out of it these ideas, while others need chapter and verse in order to feel comfortable with my claims. My goal is to lead both camps toward a healthier more integrated consideration.
Ask a Christian if they believe the bible, then ask them if they read it every day or have read it cover to cover. Some will even lie about how much they actually read it. If they are honest, they will struggle to reconcile why something so important is ignored in their life.
When people say they believe the bible, sometimes I wander if they have ever really read it. It’s easy to say that we believe the bible if we are those kinds of people who “go with the flow”. Many people have a favorable disposition to the bible because they live in a part of the country where the bible still has cultural credibility.
But its not the same for the critical thinker.
Penn Jillett says that reading the bible is the greatest cause of atheism. Atheists like Penn assume that if a person does believe what the bible says then they must be bonkers, irrational people. I think this is a fair criticism, but it lacks another way to see things. It assumes that if you believe the bible to be true then you must accept it on face value. So how should a modern person who is a good thinker relate to the bible? May I propose that it is neither to reject it entirely, nor to accept it entirely on face value. Some aspects of the bible are true because they are true on a whole other level.
Solomon said not to be overly righteous and end up destroying ourself, nor to be overly wicked and die before our time. He said the person of wisdom (fear of God) comes out from both extremes. (Eccles 7:16) In other words to reject it or to overdo it is err.
If we look at the story of Pharaoh and Moses and the plagues that God reportedly brought to Egypt we see an early image of God that many modern people cannot reconcile. It is a picture of a God that deliberately hardens the heart of a king so that God my display his power to his chosen people. It is a God who takes sides. It is a God who favors his tribal people, but truly hates the enemy who oppresses them. He appears racially divided. He loves one yet hates another. Is this a case of the scripture telling us something about God? If so, it is understandable for people to not believe in such a God. Or is this a case of the scripture telling us something about the theology of those writing the story? Clearly the theology is one of a low-level consciousness, not unlike the militaristic advancement of radical Islam we see on the news each night.
Reformed traditions actually like this kind of text. There is a subtle enjoyment for the triumph over the enemy. It depicts a God who is a “Man of War” and very powerful and thus worthy of worship. A manly, kick ass kind of God. I suppose this is how the fear of God gets imputed to so many people. Is Johnny Cash right when he sings that “God is gonna cut you down?” Is it any wonder that modern people struggle to believe the bible?
Modern Christians like to see God as on their side too. They see the world in dualities of saved and unsaved and of course they are the only saved ones. It’s surprising how many have an uncaring disposition and assume that God is hardening the hearts of others in the world? If that is true, then the others are the enemies of God not by choice, but enemy’s that God is making for himself. Again, reformed thinking lines up here. The doctrines of election, reprobation, apostasy and retributive judgment are all bricks in this fundamental theology. These are huge barriers for modern people. Most people just don’t want to go backwards into a system like that.
The more literal the interpretation of the bible, the more one’s theology mirrors that of the writers. This makes belief seem regressive. Being dogmatic or a “Bible thumper” then is a recipe for a small church with an “us against the world” mentality that has very little influence in the modern culture. This ultimately means that the church will fail in its mission to redeem the world. So maybe we need to re-think this.
You see, its not like Moses was a Christian. He didn’t even have the law yet. He certainly was relating to God in ways far different than the ways of modern people. Same goes for Abraham. Modern people are very open to talking about God. They just are not open to talking about God with Bible thumpers or church goers. This is because they are open to seeing God in other ways. Progressive ways, not regressive ways. Perhaps if Moses and Abraham can be good with God, then modern Christians need to begin seeing God in other ways too.
Think about it. By the time Jesus arrives, God is not about hating his enemies anymore. He admonishes us to love our enemies (Matt 5:43). That’s a big change. So did God change? Or did the story about God (theology) change? Or did the consciousness of the culture rise (evidence of its redemption)? A theology of Retribution is replaced with a theology of Restoration, not because the bible changed, but because the people now have eyes to see it. The theology didn’t change, people grew into conformity to it.
What happens when modern people say they don’t believe the bible? They have a set of rails in their thinking (which are valid) that have strong questions about how racism, violence, suffering and pain exist when a loving God is supposedly in control. The empirical world of science has disproven the possibility of some bible stories and thus they jump on the rails that the WHOLE THING must be a fable. For them, fable means “untrue”, instead of True on a totally other level.
Here is what is interesting about this problem: While it is understandable that unbelievers have no desire to participate in a early-stage, regressive, theology of hatred, and want to go on to higher stage consciousness of peace and integration, they are dismissing the higher-stage theology of restoration that is also in the scripture and which provides the actual roadmap for how they can possess that higher stage. They reject the bible usually based upon a rejection of a regressive worldview. They reject the bible because they embrace what the bible ultimately reveals. Think about that.
The work of the gospel or “good news” is the liberation of the captive, it’s good news to the poor and afflicted (Isa 61, Luke 4). The message of the Christ is not punitive. It’s a declaration of the Lord’s favor. It is God loving the enemy.
So what does loving the enemy look like for modern people? What does a new grasp of theology look like?
I think it looks like humility. It is not a blatant form of certainty. It is neither a certainty that the bible is 100% true and therefore must be accepted completely on face value, nor is it the certainty that it must be fiction and therefore rejected. It is the ability to look at where we have come and the theologies that we have possessed along with the outcomes they have produced. Theology doesn’t come from the bible, the bible comes from theology. Theology comes from experience with God and that comes only through humility.
It is humility that allows each of us to possess a God-given measure of goodness and put our minds on another set of rails that will bring us into closer in proximity to our fellow man rather than pit us against them. Whenever we do this we align ourselves with the theology of Love.
Those who possess such humility and love are viewed as God’s people. And God’s people are from every tribe, tongue, nation, (religion), Rev 7:9. Lest we ever forget that God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble. 1 Pet 5:5, Jer 50:31, Luke 14:11, Zeph 2:3, Psalm 25:9, Isa 2:17, Matt 23:11. This is another way of saying that pride is spiritual immaturity, and humility is what pride looks like when it has awakened.
This is something upon which both thumpers and rejectors can unite. Nothing is as powerful as love.