I don’t think the Bible works well as a rule book for Christians, nor do I think, as a collection of writings, it is meant to be corralled into a work of so-called “systematic theology.”
The diversity, contradictions, and internal debates and critiques of Scripture, which are so much of the character of Scripture, are lost if we look to it as information downloaded from God’s computer mind to ours, where every part fully coheres with the others, and readers are judged as faithful to the degree to which they “accept” such a seamless, smooth, problem-free, legal brief.
Rather I think that one of the things that makes the Bible so interesting and worthy of deep study is that the parts do not cohere in all respects, but reflect the diverse and contradictory settings and experiences of the biblical writers as they reflect on the presence of the Creator among them.
The Bible certainly gives us theological information, but also persistently reflects the diverse and contradictory triumphs and struggles of the life of faith.
And because it does not work well at all as a consistent list of instructions for what to believe at every moment, it invites its readers to think, discern, ponder, reflect, and even argue with its contents—not as an act of rebellion against God but as an act of faith, a means of coming to terms with God and communing with God.
Which is the very process we see modeled for us in the Bible itself.
“Yeah, yeah, Enns. We get it. You keep beating this drum. Can you shut up, already?”
The reason I get so insistent on this point is because of the spiritual damage I see done daily to those who spend their lives recovering emotionally from being told that God demands they “believe in” a Bible that only exists in the minds those have to ignore, downplay, or manipulate it to make their case.
People who are taught that the center of their faith is a fictitious Bible leave the faith when they finally see that the Bible doesn’t work the way they were told God says it does. Or worse, they live lives of fear and quiet desperation, resigning themselves to enduring their faith rather than rejoicing in God’s presence.
There’s something very wrong when “Bible teaching” looks more like a Sean Spicer press briefing than an honest encounter with the Sacred.
And the cure is, as I never grow tired of saying, reading the Bible with care and discipline, in conversation with millennia of fellow travelers, and watching how it “behaves” rather than reading it to make it confirm to predetermined ideals that function only to give us a false sense of comfort.
So, I do love the Bible, but not as the 4th person of the Trinity (the math doesn’t work but you know what I mean).
I love the Bible because it forces me to reflect on God in community with others.
I love the Bible because it mirrors back to me the ups and downs of my own faith, rather than setting an unrealistic standard.
I love the Bible because in its earthy messiness it reminds me of Jesus, God with us.
I love the Bible because it’s honest.
I love the Bible because it’s just plain interesting.
I love the Bible because I don’t quite get it.
I love the Bible because when I study it I am connected to men and women of faith who have done the same for over 2500 years, and so I know I am not alone.
I love the Bible because, if I’m really paying attention, it gets me out of my own head and sparks my imagination.
I love the Bible because sometimes I don’t like it and sometimes neither do some writers of the Bible, so I don’t feel guilty about it.
I love the Bible because on the whole its authority is gentle and compassionate, not dictatorial and oppressive.
I love the Bible because it reminds me that God is full of surprises.
I love the Bible because, in its own way, it points me, pushes me, drags me, invites me, propels me toward the Creator.