The Bible wasn’t written for children. It can be explained to them and understood by them, but it wasn’t written for them. The Bible was written for grown-ups, who are expected, even commanded, to use their minds.
The Bible is a hard book to sell. It may be the best-selling book in history, but its content is often controversial, offensive, distasteful and provocative. I’ve been reading it since I was eight, but only began to understand it nine years later.
I often had to excuse God for his indecency, constantly give him the benefit of the doubt and sometimes skip over the squirmy details of the Bible, before I could come to terms with its content, understand its context, recognise its coherence and finally trust in its Author.
I wrestle with questions even today, but doubt no longer lingers.
After more than two decades of reading the Bible – reflecting, chewing, meditating and thinking long and hard – I’ve discovered that the most difficult things about the Bible give me reason to believe, not doubt, its testimony.
When people are put off by the pervasive violence, abuse of women, moral failure of spiritual leaders, social chaos and civil war, it simply goes to confirm that many elements of the biblical story do not invite people to believe. In fact, a thinking person would be repelled by them.
Even Jesus’s teaching was so self-centred that it drove more people away from him, than towards him. He paid for it with his life.
No one in his right mind would be drawn to religious literature that uses graphic sexual imagery to reveal God as a jilted lover of two sisters, representing two halves of a nation, who have abandoned him for cheap sex with unworthy lovers.
No one should be intrigued by religious literature that reveals one of its spiritual giants, David, as a polygamist who lures a married woman into bed, gets her pregnant and orders her husband to be killed so that he can cover his tracks.
Later, the same man is described as a man after God’s own heart. A major world religion rejects the Bible as the “Word of God” for this very reason – it cannot accept that God would speak so poorly about his own prophets.
When it comes to winning an audience, whoever wrote the Bible, seems to have done everything wrong. They tell stories that can’t be read out loud in polite company, whose protagonists are guilty of the sort of moral failure that would disqualify them from work in any Church in the world today.
When the Bible reads so badly and often makes us feel morally superior to itself, we must wonder why the writers chose to tell these stories. Unless they actually happened.
Unless the Bible values the truth more than our feelings. Unless it isn’t God who owes us an explanation for His words, as much as we owe him an account for our lives.
Unless God doesn’t want people to read His book without applying their minds and using the reason that He gave us to dig into his Word until we strike gold.
When it comes to reading the Bible, thinking isn’t optional. It’s a mandate. But reason and the mind are often frowned upon by the Christian.
We can take reason to be an adversary to its more noble cousin, belief, so that faith is mandatory but thinking is optional.
In the minds of many Christians, faith is the firstborn son but reason is the unwanted girl child—tolerated but never honoured, accepted but never loved. But reason and morality are rooted in God, so that there is no goodness or reason outside of Him.
In the Christian worldview, no matter what we believe, all of us are thinking, moral beings because we were made in the image of Him who is completely moral and reasonable.
In Corinth, every Sabbath, Paul reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks, for a year and a half. God invites us to reason with him and trade our guilt for his forgiveness.
Thinking is a command. It’s one of the ways we love God and when we reduce it to a competitor to faith, we are not thinking well.
The difficult things about the Bible demand the best of our thinking and invite serious readers to see for themselves that judgment is never desirable, but sometimes necessary (Eze 18:25-32); leaders may fail, but they always prevail (Ps 51); the abuse of women always leads to disorder and chaos (2 Sam 11), godlessness leads to lawlessness (Judges 21:25) and God is happy to work with the worst of us, without ever asking for a resumé (1 Tim 1:15-17).
The Bible isn’t meant for people who judge it by its cover, read it like a comic book or dismiss it on a whim.
It’s meant for people who will wrestle with God all their lives and find their strength in that dastardly exercise of thinking and seeking revelation from Someone whose thoughts are always higher than our own.
He has spoken to us about earthly things and we do not understand. How will we understand if he spoke to us about heavenly things?
Reason and revelation are twins, joined together at the hip, intertwined and inseparable, so that thinking without believing and believing without thinking have no place in the life of a Christian. God has married the mind to the heart and the body; and what God has put together, let no man put asunder.
“This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Give careful thought to your ways.'”
Image Credit: Yasmeen