Let me just say right on the front end that this one might get me in trouble. It will definitely raise some eyebrows, and bring to light some of the things I have really struggled with over the last few years, and more specifically, over the last 2 years. There is a very good possibility that I will be black sheeped after today, but maybe not. So, if you're Ok with being challenged, read on. If not, maybe today's blog should be left alone. I'll get back to some less controversial stuff tomorrow or Monday. Now, disclaimer presented, allow me to carry on.
There are at least 2 ways to look at scripture; literally and metaphorically. I tend to find myself in the metaphorical interpretation camp. Now please understand, there is nothing wrong with holding a literal interpretation if that's what works for you. It just doesn't work for me anymore, but it used to. In fact, for the majority of my life, I was in the literalist camp. It has only been within the last 3 years that I have made the change.
This morning, the devotional track had me in Deuteronomy again, chapters 22, 23, and 24. If you haven't read them recently, go back and do so sometime today. It won't take but a few minutes. These chapters present a list of rules, and yesterday you heard about how much respect I have for some rules. This list covers everything from where you're supposed to go to the bathroom, to what to do if you're a teenage boy and your dreams get out of control. You've heard me say before that some of this stuff needs an "R" rating, well, here is some more.
If I were a literalist, I would be devastated this morning. One reason for that is this: I don't have a fence around my roof. The bible says to build a parapet around your roof, and I don't have one. The bible says that a man is not to wear women's clothes, nor is a woman to wear men's clothes. God detests those things. So now, thanks to my love and support for my youth group, I am a condemned man. The bible says that no one born of a forbidden marriage is to ever enter the assembly (their way of saying church), even down to the 10th generation. The bible also says that if a man is a newlywed, he cannot be sent to war or have any other duty laid before him. For 1 year, all he is to be concerned with is staying home and bringing happiness to the wife he has married. Ok, that one's not so bad.
My point is this, and here is where I'm liable to get black sheeped. For me, "Because the Bible says..." is not a very strong argument. The bible says a lot of things. You can find support for slavery. You can find support for not supporting women's rights, I mean, after all, Paul says that women are not to speak in church; the Bible says. But how much trouble would I be in if I tried to pull that one off? You can find support for excluding some people and including only other people. You can make the bible "say" just about anything you want. Here's how: take one or two words, maybe a sentence, from here or there. Take them literally, without any interpretation, without looking at context, and you can make it say pretty much anything you want.
What about the Bible being the word of God? Oh Jamie, you didn't go there? Ok, I am. Yes, it is the word of God. But more importantly, it REVEALS the word of God. Is it inerrent? You have to decide that for yourself. I know that there are some denominations who answer that with a resounding "YES!" and that's ok. For me, inerrency is not important. For me, every jot and tittle being the spoken word of God is not important. For me, whether this story lines up with that story, and this fact agrees with that fact, really doesn't matter anymore. It used to. It used to matter a lot. I spent a solid year arguing with myself, with professors, and even with God about why some of this stuff didn't seem to jee-haw.
But then I realized something...by focusing so much energy on trying to figure out what it was saying on paper, I was totally missing what it was trying to say to my heart. It took me a long time to get there, and if it weren't for one of my professors in seminary, I don't think I ever would have. I think I would still be struggling with it. The struggle was destroying me because it had threatened everything I had ever believed, I admit that. But once I realized that what the bible says on paper and the words it speaks to my innermost core don't necessarily have to be the same, I was ok.
And here is what drove it home. I asked my professor one night after class, (and if she reads this, she'll know I'm talking about her), "How can I stand in front of my folks and preach this to them when I've got so many questions myself?" And here was her answer, "Because your people will respect the fact that you struggle with the same things they struggle with." At that moment, I no longer feared the struggle.
So, what does the bible say? Alot! It tells our history. It tells the stories of those moments when God stepped in and either saved the day, or made for a very bad one for somebody. It tells of One who was coming to bring about a new world order. It tells us about the weaknesses of those we thought were strong, and the strengths of those most would see as weak. It tells about healings, miracles, and moments of inspiration. But most importantly, the bible says that you are loved. And for that, I have absolutely no argument.
May God bring you peace through the words spoken to you.