Tuesday, October 31, 2006

With all due reverence

I revere the Bible. I love reading scripture. But I don’t worship the book. I worship God alone. Too often it seems that the Bible is worshipped, more so than the one to whom the Bible points. Inerrancy, for example, seems to me to be a doctrine without application. If we could point to the original manuscript, then it might be relevant, but as it is we are stuck with something that doesn’t exist. What we have is a result of translation and editing, redaction and interpolation, and more. But we don’t have anything close to an original manuscript for any of the books of the Bible. And we do have examples of how the passages have been interpreted, rewritten, and recopied with errors.

I approach scripture with all due reverence. It is my guide towards God, to faith and in life. Yet scripture points us in a particular direction. Scripture points us toward God. Scripture is not in and of itself God and should not be made into an idol. The words in scripture are not to be worshipped, but to be read and used to help us find the directions God is giving for our life(ves).

Scripture is my rule for faith and life. But scripture cannot be everything. Scripture is as limited as anything that is not God. Scripture doesn’t speak to science. Scripture doesn’t speak to archaeology, though it has been used to help find archaeological sites. Scripture provides some evidences for a number of different disciplines but should not be confused as defining anything other than Christian theology (and the Old Testament for Jewish theology). I treat scripture with due reverence but don’t pretend that it’s something that it’s not.

Science talks about the how of things. How is this put together? How can we explain these facts? How can we test something? What is the evidence? But Scripture isn’t really concerned with those questions. Scripture wants to ask other questions. How should we live our lives? In whom do should we believe? How do we share our faith? Who made the world and why? Science works on putting facts together, while religion works on the meaning of life. Scripture is not concerned with how the world was created, even in the stories of the world’s creation in Genesis 1 or Genesis 2 the question being answered is who made the world and why rather than details of how God acted.

It is not due reverence to make the Bible something it is not. It is not due reverence to idolize the words of Scripture until they’re thought to be accurate in fields like archaeology, science or anything other than religions. It is not due reverence to hold your interpretation of what Scripture means in spite of all evidence to the contrary.

The God we worship in the Bible says that God is the truth. But pretending that the way we interpret the Bible is the truth when our interpretation is contrary to the facts is to make the one we worship a liar. When we make the Bible something it is not we make lies out of what we believe. Even further we make lies into what we believe.

The Bible is worthy of our reverence, but it is not something we should worship. There were followers of God before there was a Bible. Abraham had neither the Hebrew Testament nor the Greek Testament but was counted worthy of God. When Paul referred to Scripture what he used was what we call the Old or the Hebrew Testament. The gospel message is what comes from the Holy Spirit as we read and understand Scripture. And though we talk of the four gospels, they are such because they contain the gospel message rather than because they are the gospel message.

We are called to approach the Bible with reverence, but we are not to make it our God. Our God cannot be contain4ed in the writings of a single book or even the writings of a whole library. When we force scripture into being our God we try to put God into a box of human understanding. And while God understand humanity in whole neither any one human nor all of humanity can ever fully fathom the depths of God.

So I approach the Bible with all due reverence. I read and study scripture daily. I walk through the day in prayer as I work so that I may more fully come to God whom I worship. But the Bible is my pointer towards God and not God.

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