This post is part of a synchroblog, entitled: “What If?” I will publish links to the other writers’ contributions on Wednesday. Here is a little more explanation.
This month we invite you to play the ‘what if’ game with us. Try to imagine that some or all of the Bible narrative is not necessarily true history, but is myth of one sort or another. What sort of effect would that knowledge have on your faith? What effect might it have on the larger church? How would it change you? Would it change you and how you view the world?
What the heck? That was my initial response to this month’s synchroblog topic of playing, “what if” with the Bible, i. e., what if some of the Bible is myth. It was a totally knee jerk response that probably came from decades of conservative theological indoctrination.
This writing assignment has caused me to try to figure out my current understanding of the Bible. A part of me doesn’t want to go there because my former fundamentalist beliefs were much tidier that whatever I believe now. Nonetheless, I will try to contrast my former beliefs with my current ones.
There has been an inappropriate emphasis placed on the Bible. It is not something to worship or to dissect. It is not an encyclopedic answer book for every problem and issue we encounter in life. It is not given to being synthesized and systematized into an orderly theology. Unfortunately, Christianity has done all of these things and more to the Bible.
The Bible needs to be contextualized. It needs to be regarded in the context of its history, culture, and language. But it also needs to be put in its proper place in relationship to what it means to love Jesus and our desire to live life in a way that resembles him.
The Bible is a narrative, more like a biography or a story than a “how to” book. Conservatives have placed a lot of emphasis upon it being a divine book, but it also a very human book written with the perspective of particular authors influenced by a popular understanding of God at the time of their writing.
So, what if there is a “mythical oops” in the Bible? No big deal! Does it change who God is? Does it change who Jesus is? Does it change the fact that the law of God is written upon the human heart (Romans 2:15) and informs us about how to treat with one another with love?
Some non-religious people have more of the “law of God written on their heart” than a lot of religious people who have a lot of it in their heads, but not so much in their hearts.
This hypothetical “oops” might devastate some churches who insist that the Bible be tamed so it can fit their systematic theology, but it could also be really wonderful. If the church transitioned from their “beliefism” to living out the life of Jesus, that would be awesome.
A biblical inaccuracy would not affect me. I know a lot of biblical teaching, but not near as much about biblical living. My more important concern is living it out and learning how to confront life in a Jesus-honoring sort of way.
Here are the links for for those participating this month:
- K.W. Leslie – When People Believe Christianity Is A Myth
- Jeremy Myers – What If The Bible Is a Myth?
- David Derbyshire – What If Genesis Is A Creation Myth?
- Bud Brown – What if Paul was wrong about the life of Christ living in me?
- Chris Jefferies – What If … Creation Was A Myth?
- Paul W. Meier – Is The Bible A Myth?
- damannwrite – The Bible As A Source of Wisdom
- Phil Lancaster – What If the Bible Were A Myth
- Carol Kuniholm – What If Newness Was The Norm
Awesome post, Glenn! I added your post to my list and to the Synchroblog list.
All of your points were right on, and really liked the one that this hypothetical oops might devastate some churches. I am sharing this on Twitter and Facebook.
Much appreciated, Jeremy!
This is great.
Understanding the style of writing in the Bible is really important. It needs to be understood in context. The emphasis on narrative is really important. I think this is where many fundamentalists go wrong.
If there is a ‘mythical oops!’ as you put it I would think it would most likely be in the early chapters of Genesis. For instance, the tower of Babel certainly sounds like a ‘just so’ story to me. Also I would not be too concerned if Job was actually a fictional play written to teach an understanding of God. Nevertheless this would not stop the Bible being true!
David – I appreciate the way you put it, that is wouldn’t stop the Bible from being true.
Glenn, great post. It can take a lifetime to see that the Bible is not a law book, it’s a life book. You’ve expressed that so well. Thanks!
Chris – Love the “law book” / “life book” contrast!
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