Thursday, May 17, 2012


I was struck today by the way people like to pick a few verses of the Bible that fit their preferred viewpoint, then stereotype the rest of it to fit. Christians are as guilty of this as others.

As a Christian, I believe that every part of the Bible has something to teach us about God or ourselves. Sometimes it guides us in how to act or how to respond to events - in other places it quite clearly shows us how not to act. Some parts are a very direct revelation of God's nature; other parts are quite subjective poems that communicate the writers feelings about God. Some parts merely show us how much God's people still had to learn at a certain phase in their development as a people.

The key fact to remember is that the Bible is not a book except in the purely physical sense of pages bound together. It is a collection of ancient writings from about 100 different authors, from different continents, over a period of around 1,700 years. There is no single, coherent theological viewpoint contained within it, and no unifying literary thread. Above all, none of it was written as history in the way that our culture defines historical writing. Some of it is law, some poetry, some temple liturgy, some fireside tale. Some of it is warlike, some of it peaceful, some of it wise, some of it morally primitive. 

The most common reasons people give for rejecting the Bible as a source of wisdom involve quoting snippets they disagree with (e.g. genocide, prohibition of homosexuality, etc.) and arguing that these discredit the whole Bible. In the light of the above, to suggest that the morally primitive parts somehow discredit all the rest is like saying that Adolf Hitler discredits Shakespeare because you found Mein Kampf and The Taming of the Shrew sitting on the same bookshelf.

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