In my book The Bible Tells Me So, I go on and on (and on) to say that the Bible isn’t like a heavenly rule book, a Christian owner’s manual, a field guide to faith, a teacher’s edition text book with the answers in the back, a cookbook for us to follow the recipe—pick the metaphor you like—but models for us our own messy journey of faith.
I followed that up with The Sin of Certainty, the main point of which is that the goal of the life of faith isn’t to achieve certainty (that the Bible allegedly provides) but to point us toward trust in God regardless of how certain we feel.
Maybe you’ve had a chance to read them—or at least buy them.
I’m working on another book as we speak, and this one approaches the Bible not primarily from the point of view of the problems we create when we come to it with bad expectations, but, more positively stated, How does the Bible work?
As I see it, rather than a book designed primarily to provide answers, the Bible is a book designed to cultivate Wisdom—which is a lifelong process of maturing us into disciples who wander well along the unscripted path of faith, in-tuned to the presence of God along the way.
Expecting the Bible to be an answer book distorts the Bible’s purpose. And I say this because of how the Bible presents itself (so to speak)—which for the time being (I’m in the very early stages of writing the book) I express under 3 headings:
1.The Bible is ambiguous. The Bible is really not all that clear about what we should actually do and think. When it comes to the details of our lives, we need to work it out, which is a Wisdom task.
2. The Bible is ancient. We cannot simply, as a reflex, “follow the Bible,” because so much of it is so deeply embedded in a world we do not recognize or understand. It takes creative imagination to bring the ancient and modern horizons together.
3. The Bible is diverse. The Bible does not speak with one voice on most subjects. The various biblical writers lived at different times, in different places, and under different circumstances. The Bible’s diverse views of many matters reflect those realities, and we do a disservice the Bible and faith when we focus on neutralizing those differences.
These three things are not problems to be overcome; they tell us something of the character of the Bible.
And if we take the character of Scripture seriously, we will find our expectations challenged and instead come to see that the Bible presents us with an “invitation we can’t refuse”—to join an ancient and sacred quest to follow the path of Wisdom, with no accompanying check list of timeless and predictable solutions, no safety net of pre-scripted responses, and no fear of God bringing down the hammer on us for accepting this challenge.
At least, that’s where things stand at the moment. I will annoy the interwebs persistently as things develop. In the meantime, if you sign up (below) for my “sort of monthly newsletter,” you can get an portion of an early draft of one of the chapters, which by now has gone through 10,000 revisions since, but that will at least give you an idea of where my head is.