'The Bible says... '
I wish I had a nickel for every time someone has used the phrase “The Bible says …” with me.
It is a useful appeal to authority on almost any subject, and seems to be getting a lot of traction during this political season.
The problem is that often the person who uses that phrase has not really read the Bible at all, but is relying on the authority of someone else who they think knows the Bible.
I find, when I press people to explain where, how and from what context the Bible does indeed say what they are claiming, they often end up repeating something like: “Well, I heard my pastor say that” or “I read this book where it said the Bible said …”.
Let me ask you some questions. Have you read the entire Bible? Do you know its sweeping narrative and historical context? How does God present God’s self in the Bible?
What kind of people does God call to help him in the Bible narrative? Where do people meet God and what does he say to them in their variety of circumstances?
It seems to me, whether you have chosen to believe in the God of scripture or not, you would at least want to read the story for yourself so that you can judge and prevent yourself from being duped by someone who claims to know.
Our culture suffers from what I call “biblical illiteracy.” That is, people don’t really know what is in the Bible because they have never read it! It makes them vulnerable to those who claim to have some authority because they claim: “THE BIBLE SAYS SO!”
I recently finished a class traced the entire Bible narrative in two weeks. We did not read every word because it is not necessary in order to get the whole story. We did read much of every book of the Bible though.
I was reminded, during that class, of the majestic story of God and people in those pages. Whether you choose to believe it or not, the story tells of a God who meets people in the wilderness places, who continually returns to those who have turned away – sometimes with tender and sometimes with tough love.
It tells of the motley crew of people who are called to be God’s servants – murderers, adulterers, harlots, procrastinators, rich people, poor people, confused and lonely people.
It tells of God’s tenacious love, even when he is rejected over and over again. It tells of the community that forms around God and how God nurtures that community. It tells how God encourages people to do extraordinary things with ordinary gifts.
The Bible is not a book of rules, it is the story of a relationship. I found again, after those two weeks of going from Genesis to Revelation, that it was not so important that I know God as it is that God knows me. (That last bit in italics is in the Bible, do you know where?)But don’t take my word for it; read for yourself.