It’s been a while since I’ve posted. Something to do with my pregnant wife and our now beautiful daughter. Life changes and it changes fast!
This is a follow up to the last post on the Bible as a witness and a sign. I’m writing these posts simply because I’ve realized that my thoughts, understandings, and ways of reading the Bible have changed…and I’d say for the betterment of my faith. I’m sure there may be a few additional posts to this, as I am just thinking out loud here.
And today I’m thinking out loud about authority and the Bible. Specifically, is our modern day understanding of biblical authority helpful or even true? I was at a retreat a few weeks ago where the speaker kept referring to the Bible as “God’s Word”. Though he was an awesome speaker and the youth connected with much of what he was saying, I was struck by the kind of authority that was being placed upon the Bible. Not appalled, shocked, or angered, but curious. I’ve heard this many times before, especially when church leaders or teachers are telling people that they need to get into the Word or study God’s Word in order to get to become a more devoted Christian. And it’s often presented to our teenagers this way.
But when they find out that they don’t understand or find the words to be bland or find that the God they’re reading about only cares about certain people, I think the Bible becomes something irrelevant, outdated, or something they just can’t subscribe to.
I wonder if a label like “God’s Word”* puts caution tape and signs up that say “Do Not Touch”. Well if these are the very words of the being who has been around since the beginning of time, created time itself, knows all, sees all, is in charge of all – well who wants to question that?! I’m not going to question the nuclear physicist who has seen more and knows more about the inner-workings of the universe than I will ever know. So why would I question someone even more all knowing than that?
I wonder if it’s especially important to drop this authoritarian label in a culture that is moving towards post-authority, post-christian, post-hierarchy. A world where if you really want to get the answers, you can probably just Google it**. There are less and less middle men, and even seemingly insignificant voices can now be heard by millions.
Let me put it this way. There are several museums in the city of Philadelphia – the most prominent being the Philadelphia Museum of Art which stands high within view of all that enter the city along the river. Filled with inspired artwork over the span of centuries, there is much to behold, admire, and respect. It’s one of the biggest attractions tourists to which tourists are drawn (including the Rocky statue and steps you can climb and yell “Adriaaaan!”). And whats the one thing you’re not allowed to do? Touch anything. This is eyes only, hands off.
Then there’s the Please Touch Museum – much less prominently placed in the city view. This is the one you bring your kids to. Everything is hands on and there is so much to marvel at, interact with, and so much room for play. Nothing is taken at face value. If you’re really going to come to a better understanding of the exhibits in this place you have to dive in, get your hands dirty. In order to learn you’re going to have to ask questions, look at things from different angles.
What if we stopped treating the Bible like the Philadelphia Museum of Art and starting interacting with it more like the Please Touch Museum? We don’t need to abandon the sanctity of the Bible to interact with it from different angles, realize that stories and words can have more than one simple meaning or message, and that things can be questioned and reinterpreted.
Maybe we need less “Sir, please don’t touch the exhibit” “Ma’am, no flash photography” and a little more “Hey let’s play”.
*For the record, I’m not insisting that God be taken out of the Bible or Scripture is not God-breathed or that it has no authority or that it is not holy.
**Also for the record, I don’t believe that “If its on the internet, it must be true.”