The (not always such a) Good Book


For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.
—2 Timothy 4:3

.   .   .

The Bible can be a real pain. There you are, trying to build a somewhat respectable life, and just when you think you’re making some headway as a reasonable, faith-oriented person, Holy Writ hauls off and kicks your aspirations. Truth is, the venerable old Book of Books is chock full of enough unprogressive posits, unbalanced babble, and unappealing appeals to peel your sophisticated skin clean off.

There are, however, a few ways a progressive pilgrim can alleviate this persistent and persnickety problem.

First, you can dump the Bible as a reliable source of anything (except maybe comic material or blasphemy). This allows you to pretty much make it up as you go along, adapting to the latest cultural fashions and keeping your spiritual path clear of the doctrinal litter that can often mar the natural beauty of the journey. You are blessedly free from worries about your destination, which is good since you have absolutely no idea where you’re going anyway.

Man-with-Scissors-iStock_000015135547XSmall-PURCHASESAnother way to deal with those uppity scriptures is to pick out the good parts and ignore the rest. This approach is good for Christians who want a better fit but feel unqualified to invent a religion completely on their own. Favorite keepers include all references to love and forgiveness while the rather harsh references to sin and judgment are good ones to leave on the cutting room floor. One major plus to this approach is a much smaller Bible. You can bag the entire Old Testament out of hand, and once you’ve carded away the troublesome passages in the New, you’ve only got a few pages left, an excellent Bible for today’s short attention spans.

wineOne of the more sophisticated ways to bring the Bible into alignment with our demanding lifestyles is to treat the whole thing as a kind of inspired fiction. The great advantage of this approach is that you can affirm the general spiritual truth of the Bible while avoiding all specifics. What does it matter if God created the world in six days or not? Who cares if Israel really crossed the Red Sea? Why would we care if Jesus actually walked on water or rose from the dead? These things are simply pictures that signify more important spiritual lessons, whatever the heck they are. The Bible becomes more ambiance than actuality, less like headlights and more like mood lighting. This approach pairs well with warm brie and a nice Chardonnay.

dorkEach of these avoid the inconvenient and infamous literalist approach, which implies that the Bible is not only factually reliable but also authoritative about both the here and now and the sweet bye and bye. A literalist holds that the Bible is the infallible in-your-face Word da God. As such, it slams down an incontrovertible order to the universe like nobody’s business. The scriptures function as ground zero for every possible issue and event. Adherents are confident and astonishingly free of blur, that spiritual fuzziness so in vogue these days. Of course, the downsides to this approach are obvious. Those who adopt it will never get invited to best parties or get much respect at the Grammys. They will end up on the Neanderthal side of nearly every moral, social, and political issue of the day. And if they do muscle into the limelight, it rarely turns out in their favor.

Yet the problem with the Bible may resolve itself in due time. Since fewer and fewer people actually read it, this mammoth medieval monster may soon be irrelevent to all but professional Christians for whom the scriptures may be helpful from time to time, especially if they’re bucking for tenure. Of course, if God gets crazy again (God forbid) we might have a blockbuster on our hands once more. Heck, somebody may even make it into a movie.

.   .   .

Holy Bible_full


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