Monday, May 05, 2008
Blue on the Bible
Debbie Blue's book From Stone to Living Word is an excellent deconstruction of how our penchant for idolatry infects our readings of the Bible. (I especially like that she regularly quotes from multiple postmodern philosophers on the subject, including my former professor, Bruce Benson and his book Graven Ideologies.) This quote here captures much of what the book is about:

The Bible doesn't supply us with a neat package of timeless wisdom and moral certitude. It witnesses to what it is like to be living beings in relationship to the living God, what it's like to encounter the Word of a God who speaks rather than statically exists, a God who continually creates life and resurrects it, who seems interested in growing shoots from stumps, not cutting them off, making possibility where there was impossibility, loving more than fixing. It's maybe more like a love that is new every morning than something you can carry around, stand on, or use to fight duels. The Word remains open and vulnerable, and that's nothing to be afraid of. Maybe the Word in all its crazy uncontrollableness can be let loose and trusted, not to do what the church necessarily expects or even wants, but in some way slightly unfathomable to us, to break, save, love, and redeem the world.

The belief that the Bible contains the absolute truth of God, set in stone, is something that has permeated popular evangelical culture. People who are not Christians seem to think that part of being a Christian is to believe that the text is coherent and that we would be disturbed to know it does not say the same thing throughout, that it contradicts itself, that it is garbled and weird. I wish we could all be out about that, that we could say yes, we know it's garbled and weird. We have a very strange text as our scripure. Isn't that wild? Doesn't that say something interesting about faith? Religion? Idolatry? They are fairly predictable and orderly, but faith? In the radically alive, relentlessly loving, having-nothing-to-do-with-death-God? What a crazy, beautiful thing.

That last bit about non-Christians expecting us Christians to be shocked to find out that the Bible is weird and contradictory (i.e. "multi-faceted") reflects well a conversation I recently had over at Friendly Atheist. And it's funny, they sometimes seem almost offended if you do acknowledge that fact openly and then declare that you still have faith in that kind of Bible. Personally though, I don't know how to do anything else. If that's what the Bible is, then I'm going to take it for what it is - a crazy beautiful thing.


posted by Mike Clawson at 11:26 AM | Permalink |


At 5/06/2008 07:30:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous

The fact that the bible is inherently contradictory is commonly known, all those nice comments from the old testament about owning slaves and killing people for working on the sabbath. what we would like to know is whether there has been any serious study into the potential political motivations for the creation of the bible. our history is sketchy but wasn't the bible created by a Roman emperor? Great tool for keeping the rowdy peasants under control, the promise of eternal life and reward if only they are good on earth and obey the emperor....kinda funny that people are still obeying a long dead roman emperor.


At 5/06/2008 11:31:00 AM, Blogger Mike Clawson

Undercover, you seem to have bought into the DaVinci Code version of early church history. I assure that the reality is far more complex and less conspiratorial than that. For instance, the bulk of the New Testament Canon was recognized by about AD 200, more than 100 years before Constantine and back when Christians were still being fed to the lions by Roman Emperors for the radical politically subversive nature of their teachings.