KEEPING THE FAITH: God said it … and that unsettles it

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Ronnie McBrayer

Published: Thursday, February 28, 2013 at 10:40 AM.

“God said it, I believe it, and that settles it.” This slogan is one of today’s all too common bumper sticker defenses of the Bible. The phrase is sometimes amended to read “God said it … and that settles it” to reflect that personal belief is inconsequential in the matter.

Proponents of this view caricaturize the Bible as a divinely dictated book of statutes whose truth is crystal clear to anyone who has sense enough to simply read. Of course they fail to clarify that what they call the “truth” is their view of the truth, shaped by their unique set of circumstances, experiences, and presuppositions.

I often encounter fervent, sincere, Bible-believing people who say things like, “We need more of the Bible around here.” I don’t disagree, but the sense I get is that what some people really want are for their interpretations of the Bible to be upheld, validated, and shouted at everyone else in the room.

They want the preacher to hit all the hot buttons on all the hot issues — and hit these buttons with some zing — so that they can shout “Hallelujah, we are right and everybody else is wrong!” Then they can continue with business as usual, celebrating their own spiritual beauty and criticizing the ugliness of those with whom they disagree.

Thus, “believing the Bible” can create hard-hearted, judgmental, graceless religionists who patrol society with their personalized weapons of rigidity and arrogance. In such cases, both belief and the Bible have been misappropriated. Christians can become “settled” for sure, but are simultaneously nothing like their namesake, Jesus Christ.

I think there is a more principled approach to dealing with the Scriptures (even if my suggestion is shaped by my own unique set of assumptions): What if we begin to read the Bible descriptively rather than just prescriptively? That is, what if the Bible describes the human search for the Holy — and the Holy’s interaction with the human — rather than simply prescribing religious behavior?

Such a change would allow us to be set free from stagnant dogma that “settles it,” and instead put us on a journey of faithful exploration. We could then read the Scriptures, not to confirm our righteousness and others’ wrongness, but looking for clues to how we can better know God.



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