Doesn’t it seem odd when the Bible is presented as a puzzle to be figured out? Like if we could just get the pieces to fit together in the right order everything would make sense? But isn’t this approach of ‘figuring out what God wants me to do and doing it’ just another form of self-righteousness?
I find figuring things out and trying to believe the correct information to be utterly exhausting- not to mention that it puts a lot of weight on my end of the me-to-God ratio of who is at the helm of my redemption.
The more I look around, the more I wonder whether we’re following Jesus, or following a book. It seems that somewhere along the line, the Bible has ousted Jesus for his place at the ‘right hand of God’.
When others demand that Scripture be acknowledged as the ‘infallible, inerrant, Word of God’ because it ‘says so in the Bible’, I can’t help but roll my eyes at the ridiculousness of the Bible referencing itself. It’s kind of like me saying this essay is reliable because it says so here.
I feel like I’m taking crazy pills.
Imagine a Sermon on the Mount with Jesus asking the crowd to open up their Bibles to Matthew 5 for the days reading.
When I look at the Bible as an instruction manual for life, it becomes rigid and cold and lifeless. Because although an instruction manual might tell me how to put something together, it can’t tell me how to enjoy it. This approach to Scripture leaves me feeling far away from the story of love and liberation that is written upon its pages.
How is it that we’ve confused Scripture for God? Perhaps we should take a step back from this deification and consider whether or not the Bible has, or should be given a voice of its own.
It may sound like I am arguing semantics, but I think the way in which we talk about, implement and regard the Bible is very important. Although I find the Bible to be uniquely incredible, extraordinary, invaluable and authentic, I think there is a big difference between the Bible as the source of truth, and the Bible as something that points to truth.
It must drive God crazy to watch us respond to His love (as expressed in Jesus) with a kids song that opens with ‘Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so’.
Really? I know that God loves me because the Bible tells me so?
That’s like thanking my cell phone for all the great conversations we have.
It’s an absurd notion because my cell phone is just a medium for connecting me with my friends. Although their voices are channeled through my cell phone- they themselves are not contained within it. And although I do appreciate and value my cell phone for its unique ability to connect me with my friends (especially ones that are far away)- I do not love my cell phone.
I love the person on the other end of the call.
I would suggest that although the Bible uniquely conveys the essence of God, it does not contain Him either- but don’t take my word for it- read for yourself the words of Jesus as recorded in the book of John:
You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.” –John 5:39-40
These words of Jesus blow me away every time I read them.
It would seem that the deification of Scripture is something that has been going on for quite some time- long before America, before the Protestant Reformation, and even before the early Church.
So when I hear people imply that the Bible is God’s ultimate revelation to man, I want to barf. And I think maybe so does Jesus. Because I believe the writer of Hebrews when he presented Jesus as being ‘the exact representation of God’.
And I don’t believe it because it’s in the Bible- I believe it because (the Spirit of God inside me offers me the grace to believe) it’s true.
So what does the Bible ‘mean’ to me? I find the narrative of Scripture to reveal the same fingerprint of the Living God that I sense is pursuing me in the ‘here and now’. It is on the pages of Scripture that I read of others that have come before me- others from different tribes and in different times- whose encounter with the living God affected them then, much like it is affecting me now.
Why are we so afraid to consider that God might be bigger than the Bible? Or that perhaps the Bible- by design- isn’t a puzzle to be solved but rather an invitation into a story that is still being told? In contrast to a ‘the Bible says it, I believe it, and that settles it’ approach to faith, what if there is more God wants to say? What did Jesus mean when he said;
I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.” –John 16:12-13
If Jesus was just a man that died two-thousand years ago, then I can see the merit of clinging to a written account as being our closest connection to him.
But is it possible that we are created by design to live in reliance on the Spirit of God as our guide instead of reading the narrative of Scripture as a users guide or operating manual? Perhaps (among other things) the Bible is more of a reminder that we are not alone, that others have been recklessly loved by God before us, and that God will finish what he has started in all of us.
A time will come, however, indeed it is already here, when the true (genuine) worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth (reality); for the Father is seeking just such people as these as His worshipers. –John 4:23-24
I think one of the greatest resistances to abandoning a life lived by the letter of the law in exchange for a life lived by the Spirit, is the notion that without the Bible’s explicit directives telling us what to do at every turn, life would become impossibly chaotic, heretical, and unmanageable, because living by the Spirit of God leaves us susceptible to misinterpretation and misunderstanding.
As if living life by the letter of the law isn’t impossibly chaotic, heretical, and unmanageable, filled with misinterpretation and misunderstanding.
Because the Bible is clear, straightforward and tells us everything we need to know in an easy-to-read, easy-to-obey manner? And because knowing what to do and doing it isn’t self-righteousness? And because faith in God is about getting the right answers and getting into heaven (because a preoccupation with what I get and where I go after I die isn’t self-centered at all)?
And for a people that claim to follow Jesus, some of us quote the Apostle Paul an awful lot.
I don’t want to follow Paul. Nor do I want to follow his interpretation of Jesus. And I definitely don’t want to follow other people’s interpretations of Paul’s interpretation of Jesus.
I want to follow Jesus.
Here, and now.
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