How is the Bible like THE VIEW?

Answer: The Bible is a conversation. But where THE VIEW has Barbara Walters and Whoopi Goldberg, the Bible has Father, Son, Spirit, and Every Human Who Has Ever Lived. Plus a donkey or two.

It makes sense that the Bible is a conversation. It comes, first of all, from an inherently relational God. However the “divine mind” works, we know it’s not about ideas forming inside an individual spiritual skull. The mind of God – also known as “Truth” – consists in the mutual knowing of Father, Son, and Spirit. A recent addition to that divine mind is you. And everybody else. That conversation of 3 voices has grown to, well, a lot more voices. And out of that human participation in the Triune Conversation has come the written artifacts we call the Holy Scriptures.

It used to annoy me that the Bible was not a single voice telling me what’s what. That’s the kind of Scripture you’d expect from an all-powerful individual Omni-God. A Single Booming Voice. In fact, we’re so fond of that idea, we spend a lot of energy trying to imagine that this is in fact what the Scriptures are. We pay our preachers to explain problematic verses away, to mimic for us that imagined solitary Voice – anything to aid our denial of the disturbingly multiple voices of Scripture.

We are quite determined to turn the Bible God gave us into the Bible he should have given us.

And what God gave us is a conversation.

And even more disturbingly, that conversation is sometimes an argument.

If you’re wondering what the point of this post is, it’s that. That the Bible consists of multiple voices that come from diverse minds that disagree on some things. And sometimes these arguments don’t get resolved. The whole Bible is God-breathed and profitable for teaching, and what God has breathed to us is not a list of truth statements for us to merely submit to, but a complicated and difficult conversation for us to participate in.

Let’s try this on for size…

First of all, there are different voices in different texts which live in tension with each other. A Jewish-trained mind has no problem with this. Us Greek-ish thinkers, not so much… Proverbs teaches us, among other things, that doing the right thing leads to success and good health. Job, on the other hand, is mainly a story about how Proverbs isn’t the full story. Some texts describe Yahweh as a typical violent tribal deity – the god who is for us and against them. Our Calvinist brothers and sisters have latched onto that God, to sad effect. But there are other texts depicting a very different kind of deity – One who is Lord of all people, all nations, who elects the few for the universal good of all. Some texts love sacrifices. For other texts, sacrifices make them want to puke. Some texts command us to kill our enemies. Others tell us to love them and lay down our lives for them.

Not only does the Bible argue with itself, but it also models for us a kind of piety that involves arguing with God. When Yahweh reveals his intentions to destroy Sodom, Abraham challenges the morality of that decision (Gen 18.20-33). Later, when Yahweh intends to annihilate the idolatrous Israelites, Moses goes so far as to call his plan “evil,” leading the Lord of All to “repent of the evil he had planned for his people” (Ex. 32.12-14). (And by the way, the word “evil” there is the same word used to describe Sodom’s behavior, so there’s no wiggling around that one, disturbing though it is). Even Jesus has his point of view challenged by a Canaanite woman, who eventually converts him to her way of thinking, resulting in him shifting his whole ministry focus from Jews to Gentiles (Matt. 15.22-28).

These are not “contradictions” of the sort that our atheist friends are so fond of pointing out. These are artifacts of a conversational God who reveals himself in conversations shared by disputatious and gloriously free-thinking human beings. A God who values our input surprisingly much.

I’ll end with what is a scary question for me, and will probably be scary for you too:

Does faithfulness to the Bible sometimes require us to argue with it?

7 comments so far

  1. Helen Brothers on

    The Bible is a conversation of God with different individuals that points us to the one in which there are no contridictions, the true word of God-Jesus!

  2. Nan Kuhlman on

    John, I really appreciate your post. I agree that in our quest to figure everything out and reconcile the seemingly irreconcilable, we put God in a box. What if God were more – more than we could ever figure out or reconcile or understand, at least right now? I don’t want to limit God but saying, “This is who you are and no more.” I want to say, “This is what I understand now; show me more.” Sometimes this asking takes the form of arguing, I think, but it’s the wrestling that makes our response real and not canned, generic faith served up on a religious platter.

  3. iamjean9 on

    Love it, John – terrific post! Have you been following Peter Enns’ “Ask a Biblical Scholar” series interviewing scholars who once believed in the inerrancy of the Bible but have come to see it in a new light too? Fascinating.

    • I’ll check that out — I really like Enns! Whenever someone brings up the word “inerrancy,” I say that I believe the Bible is inerrantly what it ought to be. It successfully does what God created it to do.

  4. roger sacco on

    I think a comment from the late Ray Anderson ties in “If the body of Jesus was raised and his brain also then do you thinkthat Jesus has ever had a new idea or thought concerning God’s purpose for the past two millennia?” “Do you think that he is just sitting at the right hand of the Father leaving us with the Bible and the words he spoke to us before he ascended to heaven without having anything new to say?” Ray says it assumes his absence!

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