“All You Need is the Bible.” ???


That’s what the lady said, repeatedly. It was really more of a pronouncement, as she made her opinion known in a loud voice from about twelve feet away.

Last Saturday at the Harbor Market amidst meaningful conversations with people interested in An Irreligious Faith, I had an interesting encounter. A lady looked at the book. So, I was just starting to approach her, thinking she was desiring conversation. I was wrong. She just wanted to make her opinion known.

I replied to her loud, confrontational statement with a wimpy, “I don’t disagree with you. “ But, I do.

As I dissect what happened, there are five questions that come to mind.

  • What does that statement really mean?
  • Is it true?
  • Does the statement accurately represent the faith?
  • Why does one who holds to that opinion feel the need to make the unsolicited pronouncement?
  • Does the statement help people, or hurt them?

What does that statement really mean?

I think the lady believed (I have known so many people like this.) that the purest, truest expression of the Christian faith is based on the Bible, and it is entirely adequate to instruct us in said faith.

But what particular interpretation is she referring to? The one she believes, of course.

What part of the Bible is she referring to? Usually, such folks, would respond, “all of it.”

Does that include the part about a prophet who believed God told him to marry a prostitute? Or the part where a Levite dismembered his mistress and sent her body parts to each of the twelve tribes throughout the kingdom? Or the part where people conducted genocide in the name of God?

Some things need perspective and a blanket statement like, “The Bible is all you need” is just too bare bones.

I think someone who makes a statement like that means, “My interpretation of the Bible and the parts that fit my theology, is all you need.”

Is it true?

If it were, everyone who agrees with that statement would be an exemplary followers of Christ.

I rest my case.

I know a lot of the Bible and a lot about the Bible. It informs my life. But to live life in the way of Jesus, I would say that experience and relationships have been just as important. That’s because life in the way of Jesus is not knowledge based. It’s life, relationships, and experience. It is living the life, not just knowing the history and dissecting the blueprint.

The statement is so inadequate, incomplete, and misleading, I would say, it is not true.

Does the statement misrepresent the faith?

Simple answer. It reduces values lived out in life to statements to be believed in the head. That’s why within Christianity, there are very knowledgeable, scholarly jerks; and very simple, but godly, people.

Knowing the Bible does not equal living like Jesus.

Does the statement help people or hurt them?

It hurts people, because it shuts them down, and stifles honest questions and conversation. It hurts people because it divides humanity into “us and “them.”

There are the enlightened, godly people who have their theology correct, and there are the outsiders who are sadly mistaken, and perhaps, hell-bound because they have it wrong.

This sounds like high school all over again. It is elitism and snobbery. It is divisive and hurtful, and totally unlike the God who hangs with the outcasts.

Why does one who holds to that opinion feel the need to make the unsolicited pronouncement?

I suppose, they think there is value in such tactics, even though anyone with one functioning brain cell knows, it is self-serving, offensive, and uncaring.

Now, I wonder how should I have answered the woman and her pronouncement?

I don’t want to get into a big argument in such a busy, public setting, but I don’t want to be dishonest, or do anything to perpetuate her lie either. I think the situation calls for a one-liner, but what would it be?

  • That sounds like a very objective statement.
  • That sounds like a very objective statement, but it’s not.
  • If that is true, why aren’t more Christians living like Jesus?
  • Well then that settles it. All you need to live like Jesus is to be knowledgeable about the Bible.
  • Do you want an honest conversation, or do just want to make a pronouncement?

How would you respond?

About Glenn

Glenn Hager is a blogger, former newspaper columnist, and author of two books, An Irreligious Faith and Free Range Faith.
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  1. You could have told her you have the spiritual gift of exhortation as mentioned among the spiritual gifts listed in Romans 12:6-8 and your book is the fruit of that gift.

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