About the Good Book
November 26, 2017
Last week, I came across an interesting article on the Bible-reading habits of Americans. It came down to this: most claim they respect it, but few read it consistently. (According to a 2017 Barna poll, 37% said they read it at least weekly, down from 46% in 2009.) The article took me back to Biblical Authority, an elective course I took in divinity school many years ago. The professor covered the history and politics of how the Bible came to be, the consistency of its message, scribal errors and their impact on the text, how it compared to other ancient writings, arguments (some stronger than others) for and against its authority in the life of faith, and so on. It was interesting information, but for some reason, I did not think it would compel a hard-core skeptic to read it.
I most appreciated the Bible’s honesty and deep understanding of the human condition—the ups and downs; our deepest longings and fears; our simplicity and complexity; the heights to which we can soar and the depths to which we can sink; and, ultimately, what could bring us hope and true fulfillment. It presented these weighty matters in beautiful narrative, poetry, song, allegory, letters, proverbs, and more. While I found some sections complex (Leviticus, anyone?), bizarre (Revelation!), or even sometimes morally troubling (think Judges), when read contextually, the Bible just seemed to challenge humanity to do and be better. And, when I put its teachings into practice, it had an undeniable transformative quality. Now, after many years of reading it (and sometimes not often enough), I understand why James, the apostle, likened it to a mirror (Js. 1:23): if you neglect it long enough, you might forget yourself.
“Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.” Ps. 119:105