Well, not all of it. Never from cover to cover. I’ve read a lot of it – a pretty vast majority of it, to be certain. Most of what I have read, I’ve read several times over. I’ve committed parts of it to memory, and there are sections of it with which I’m intimately familiar and have studied in depth. I’ve even preached on parts of it. But, despite my best efforts time and again over the years, I have never read the Book as a whole, from Genesis to Revelation, from “In the beginning” to “Come, Lord Jesus.”
You would think someone who comes from a fundamentalist, Bible-belt-based background, went to a Christian school, has helped to start a church, and led worship for the majority of his adult life would have read this foundational piece of literature through at least once, right?
And, well, maybe that’s a problem. Not in general, not necessarily for everyone… but for me. Since recently “coming out” about my views on the Book, I’ve had quite a few conversations with Christians (some I know well and some I don’t know at all) expressing concern over the fact that I don’t stand sola scriptura, that I don’t regard the Bible as the single and final authority to guide the spiritual life, and that I take issue with the “inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God” doctrine that dominates the hearts and minds of most evangelicals.
I’ve thought a lot about those conversations and comments in the past couple of weeks. On one hand, I find it somewhat odd that anything I say would inspire such a reaction among Bible believers. At the end of the day, I’m just a guy writing a blog. I’m not a theologian (well, depending on your definition of that word), I don’t hold any divinity degrees, and I’m no longer representing any particular local church in a leadership role.
And on the other hand, I do get it. In Christendom, it’s a pretty big deal to say the things I’ve said about the Book. Not something to be taken lightly. And I sense that the unintended outcome from writing what I wrote is that some Christians have taken it personally, feeling that I’m saying more than I really am. That I’m writing off the Bible altogether, or even “attacking” it. And if that’s the case, I’ve left the wrong impression.
There is much about the Bible that I sincerely love. When I was a squirmy kid, frustrated with boring grown-up church services and my mother’s constant plea for me to “sit still and be quiet,” I would open up the Bible and read Nehemiah and Esther. Over and over again, I got lost in the stories of the return and restoration, the Jewish Queen who was in the right place “for such a time as this.” I find the Psalms to be profound and moving; Isaiah 40:11 has been a comfort to me countless times in my life. The Gospels tell the story of a man that I love and strive to emulate. The prophets are crazy and entertaining and revealing – Elijah and Jeremiah in particular are favorites. I’m inspired by the story of Joshua, I resonate with Peter, and I can’t read Habakkuk 2:2-3 without becoming emotional.
I haven’t, for the record, come to my convictions flippantly – it’s been a multi-year process. Lifelong, even. And I’ve carefully weighed the value of the Book in my own life just as I’ve also come to believe that the elevated place that we have given our modern translations of Scripture is grossly misguided and has resulted in a great deal of harm to many. But then again, I’m out here challenging the traditional use and interpretation of a Book that I’ve never read all the way through myself. What to do?
Guess I have a new project.
I’ve selected a 90-day reading plan from my handy YouVersion iPad app. Over the next three months, I will do what I haven’t before. I will make it past Deuteronomy. I will read my Bible all the way through the end of the Book of Revelation. I’m going to think seriously about it. Watch for recurring themes and important plot points. Savor my time with intriguing characters. Enjoy the episodes I know, be surprised by ones I don’t or had forgotten. Immerse myself in the story of the Bible.
For me, that’s the real importance of anything that informs my beliefs. The valuable information is always relayed through story. Data is great – facts and figures and exposition and hermeneutics and commentary all have their place. But I’m simply wired to respond to story. It’s what moves me, forms my convictions, compels me to make a decision, and causes me to act. It’s why I spend my time putting words onto this tiny blog. It’s why I say crazy things that make people angry.
At the end of the day, I’m just a guy writing a blog. And you’re the person reading it.
Stories. We love to listen to them; we love to tell them. We’re all have our own; we’re all part of one. I am really excited for the next chapter – in fact, I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited about reading the Story. Can’t wait to tell you what I learn.