Many Christians were brought up to see the Bible as a holy infallible instruction book: many Sunday School teachers added to this by describing it as Best Instructions Before Leaving Earth! Yet, many of us have struggled or wrestled with passages- or even whole books that have not made a lot of sense. We’ve probably all quoted the Bible to justify something we have done,or to rebuke rather than help, or may even have had the Bible quoted at us for similar reasons. I have just finished Brian McLaren’s book ” A generous Orthodoxy” and its brilliant chapter- Why I am Biblical. Brian says:
“I grew up being taught the Bible was an answer book, supplying exactly the kind of information…..people want from a phone book, encyclopedia, or legal constitution. Back in the 1960’s, we “knew “the Bible taught that the world would end within 25 years….oops. We also “knew” from the Bible that it would end through a conflict between the US/Israel representing God vs the Soviet Union/China representing the devil.Oops again. We wanted a simple, clear, efficient, and convenient plan for getting to heaven after death. Between now and then, we wanted a clear assurance that God didn’t like the people we didn’t like for the same reasons we didn’t like them. Finally, we wanted a rule book that made it objectively clear, with no subjective ambiguity, what behaviours were right and wrong for all time, in all places, and among all cultures, especially if these rules confirmed our views and not just those of people we considered “liberal”.”
McLaren goes on to state that he believes that scripture is God inspired and God breathed, but notes that when Scipture talks about itself it doesn’t use the language we often use in our explanations of its value (authority, inerrancy, infallibility, absolute and literal) He encourages us to focus on the purpose of scripture as being to equip us for every good work in our needy world(2 Tim3:17), and suggests that biblical Christians have thrived when we use the Bible in this way and we have languished and wandered when we have used it as a weapon to threaten and intimidate others. In closing the chapter McLaren says; “To be truly biblical does not mean being preoccupied with some golden age in the ancient world and God’s word to people back then. It means learning from the past to let God’s story, God’s will, and God’s dream continue to come true in us and our children.”
This is our Bible, This is God’s story, This is our song….This is the narrative which inspires us.