This I Believe
I believe in the Bible. It doesn’t bother me that Jesus may have fathered or child, or that his last tomb may have been discovered. Nor does it bother me that humans almost certainly evolved from animals. I still believe in the Bible.
Having been educated in both the Bible Belt and Berkeley; I know people read this book in different ways. Furthermore, I studied world religions in my undergraduate days and found much very compelling in all of them. My experiences have led me to reflect deeply on my faith. And through all this experience I can still say; I believe in the Bible.
As a child in Sunday School I sang with the others,
Yes, that’s the book for me!
I stand alone on the word of God!
As an adult, I began to ask questions. Okay, so the Bible is the word of God. What do you do when you discover inconsistencies in it? In Genesis 1, the animals are created before human beings. In Genesis 2, the animals are created after human beings. In First Samuel 17, David kills Goliath. In Second Samuel 21, some guy no one ever heard of named Elahanan kills Goliath. And what happens when you find rules in the Bible that you simply do not agree with? I don’t agree that women who are raped should be required to marry their rapists (see Deuteronomy 22:28-29). Nor do I agree that gay men should be executed (see Leviticus 20:13).
Some pastors teach the Bible as book of inspirational literature and moral values, and not as a historical or scientific work. I agree with such teaching – but would like to say more. I think more needs to be said, because the Bible is always going to carry more spiritual weight for Christians than any other inspirational or moral work. Mitch Albom’s “The Five People you Meet in Heaven” made me cry and taught me values. Yet it will never have the spiritual status of the Bible. What is the basis for this status? “What does it mean to say the Bible is the Word of God?”
Here is my answer: The Word of God does indeed manifest itself to human beings. I believe I have experienced it – but not in any book. Four words summarize how I have experienced God’s Word: Creation, Community, Covenant, and Calling. Each of these four corresponds respectively to my own feelings of joy, love, peace, and hope. I will attempt to elaborate very briefly:
Creation – When I hike in Letchworth park I feel joy, knowing the world and myself are good. This is the Word of God.
Community – When I have taken youth on mission trips to build Habitat Homes, I have felt great love. This is the Word of God.
Covenant – When a friend I have offended forgives me, I feel peace. This is the Word of God.
Calling – When I sense that the work I do is about something much greater than me; I feel hope. This is the Word of God.
Creation, Community, Covenant, and Calling. These experiences are God’s Word for me. I also read about them in the Bible. In fact, writings about these four experiences permeate the Bible. There is hardly a page that does not address one or more of these four themes. Thus the Bible is about the Word of God, even if some passages do not sound like God at all.
If I should be kidnapped by extraterrestrials and taken to a planet where no one has ever heard of the Bible, and left to live there, I would look for an organization that based itself on the experiences of Creation, Community, Covenant, and Calling. I would feel at home in such an organization, even without an authoritative book to read. Fortunately for me, I live on Earth and I have a book that does speak quite elegantly of these four experiences of God’s Word – the Bible – and therefore I believe in this book.
Thus, taken as a whole, the Bible speaks to our human experience. It speaks to our human spiritual experience. The four “C” words I mention are the grand themes of the Bible, and I believe in them. As for the details – I believe there is room for good people to disagree.
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