This is the third of four points I made in a Facebook discussion in June and July of 2013. The people whose names are occasionally mentioned were the other participants in the discussion. It appears here for future reference since I deleted my Facebook account in April of 2018.
POINT #3: ALL SCRIPTURE IS INSPIRED BY GOD; THEREFORE I REJECT GOD
“…in order to be fair with God, we need to realize that we can’t explore His mind as an open book. … I don’t think it is possible to know all the issues involved… Since the Bible isn’t verbally inspired…there are passages that don’t set forth God’s character as it really is…
“… God’s plan is to save the human race… I accept this by faith realizing that I do not have all the answers but that the time will come when all will be revealed.”
That extensive quote represents several paragraphs, but I think my excerpts capture the essential message of the whole. And the whole thought perfectly represents the essence of my complaint with those who put their trust in the Bible, and in the God that it reveals.
Christianity today– many centuries removed from its founding– enjoys a cultural pervasiveness in many regions of the world, including ours. It has grown and spread far beyond its Middle Eastern birthplace. Becoming discipled, baptized, and active in a church is now as easy as being born.
For the first generations of Christians, every level of involvement with that new and unwelcome religion was serious, and at times a life-or-death decision. It’s not like that anymore where we in the Western world live. In my case, it was as easy as showing up for the right meetings, assenting to the right assertions, and playing along as everyone played church.
The very last thing that any Christian from the earliest centuries of the faith would ever think of doing is change God’s Word. To one of those primitive Christians being persecuted by Jewish or Roman tyranny, the passages in which God behaved as a conquering warrior would have been comforting, even if they did express an aspect of God incompatible with the preferences of Christians yet to be born.
The Bible is supposed to be the believer’s window into God’s revealed will, the clearest expression we have of God’s mind. We may not be able to directly explore God’s mind as an open book. However, the Bible describes a God who went to great pains to reveal Himself in the stories told in that book. That’s why it is called the “revealed will of God.” So many times in Scripture the phrase “God revealed” is repeated. Revelation is what is happening throughout the whole Bible; it’s not just the Protestant name for the last book of the Bible. The Bible presents itself as THE WORD OF GOD, (John 1).
But in these times, it has been relegated to the status of just another soul-winning tool. Liberal views of Scripture have ascended to very prominent platforms, and have had their influence on everyone’s view of the Bible. Many in previous generations literally gave their lives in order to preserve the message of a book that Christians nowadays feel free to carve up into the parts they prefer (called the clearer, less mysterious parts), and those parts that make them uncomfortable (whitewashed as unclear, mysterious, difficult passages which supposedly will someday be all cleared up in some heavenly classroom).
Certainly, I disagree with the practice of allowing your preferences to decide which Bible passages you deem more or less inspired, or more or less “clear”. The New Testament claims that “all Scripture is inspired by God,” (2 Timothy 3:16). It says ALL of it is inspired. No matter whether it’s verbally inspired or some other way, you have to take it ALL or take none of it, as inspired. To be intellectually honest, one must follow the rules set up in the Bible itself to know how it should be correctly interpreted. 2 Timothy 3:16 is the most basic and fundamental of those rules. Whether you believe in the inspiration of the Bible or not, you are intellectually dishonest if you do not follow its own rules for interpretation. Just as you would be in your approach to the internal rules of any ancient writings or modern ones for that matter.
No one is capable of determining which parts belong under the heading “man’s words” and which parts should be labeled “God’s thoughts.” Martin Luther went down that perilous path and ended up calling the epistle of James an epistle “of straw” which he would have preferred never to have ended up in the Bible. Many others today follow in Luther’s footsteps, to one degree or another. But they are all committing a serious sin against the Bible and (if you believe in Him) the Holy Spirit who was charged with inspiring it and guiding it down to the present age (according to what the Bible says about itself to those who accept its claims).
So here’s the thing. All the stories of the Bible are inspired (or as I would say, accurate) presentations of what God is like. The violent, immoral behavior of God toward human beings as presented in the Bible is not mysterious or unclear. It is behavior which is important to consider as part of the whole picture of God.
By the end of the Bible, when it becomes important to be invited to accept or reject God based on what He presented to us in His Word, it seems more logical to me to reject the offer to follow Him into His version of eternity than to accept it, on moral grounds alone. Never mind the question of whether or not the Bible is a fiction made up by Bronze Age tribes (that’s a different question!). Allowing for the possibility that the Bible is EXACTLY what it claims to be, I would still reject it based on the rules it gave me for interpreting it, and based on the immoral and inconsistent behavior of the God it claims is inviting me to “choose this day” whether or not to worship.
- Morally and logically, if the Bible is TRUE, I should choose to reject the biblical God.
- Morally and logically, if the Bible is FICTION, I should choose to reject the biblical God.
The Bible stories of God destroying in a manner much like the conquering warrior-kings of ancient human history are only unclear or unrepresentative of God’s character if you refuse to accept that God behaved that way. If that view of God clashes with your church doctrine or emotional comfort zone, you are the one who is biased, and likely to reinterpret what should be clear and direct revelation.
Bias is blindness when it prevents the biased apologist from seeing the obvious. It would be difficult to find an unbiased reader of this book which has been so intertwined with the history of Western societies such as ours. The percentage of the US population who are unaffiliated with any religion is growing quickly. Inevitably, we will continue to have more people unbiased by a religious upbringing and culture. Perhaps some will read the Bible free from the Christian bias.
This perspective is the one I’m attempting to adopt. The closer I get to seeing God’s behavior as presented in His Word without the skewed lens of bias, the easier it becomes to heed His oft-repeated invitation to “taste and see,” to “come let us reason,” to “choose ye this day” whether or not the God of the Bible is worthy of worship and adoration. I appreciate God’s ability to grant me the choice to reject His religion. I wish more of His people would be as accommodating as their God and attempt to see beyond their own insulated religious community, recognizing that their chosen faith is just one of many legitimate choices that can be made as honestly and sincerely as they have made theirs. (I’m not speaking to either Tom or Gil with that last statement; these two have encouraged me greatly by generously sharing this discussion space with one such as me!)