When it comes to the bible, there are two extremes: a blind ignorance and a blind faith.
There is a conversation that I keep having and it goes like this, “I just can’t believe the bible because it’s so contradicting”. I typically reply with, “That’s an interesting observation, have you read it?” To which the answer is usually, “Well no… because, blah blah [insert excuse here] blah”.
The next question I ask is, “when you read regular books, do you just open them anywhere you want and start reading, or do you start from the beginning of the story?”
Nearly everyone, in every book, starts at the beginning of the story except when we read the bible, and that is the issue isn’t it? Even for disciples.
I have not read the entire bible from cover to cover, in fact, I don’t think I have read the entire bible in bassakwards order either.
Do I think that everyone should start from Genesis and read through to Revelation? No, I don’t.
Beyond my opinion about the order the bible should be read, I think the bigger issue is taking the time to read the 66 books as they were intended to be read. We do that by being obedient to their literary, generational and geographical context. There are two great mistakes that Christians, and others make when discussing the bible, 1. They/we take a line of the bible without considering it’s literary context and make it fit into whatever point we’re trying to get across. 2. We assume that every word Paul writes in his letters to the churches were to be communicated to all cultures, in all places, for all time, and I’m just not sure I can drink that Koolaid.
My previous statement isn’t meant to question the legitimacy of Paul’s words, but rather our willingness to live by personal conviction and listen to Holy Spirit, the mouthpiece of God. When Holy Spirit speaks and we take the risk at speaking or writing down those words I believe we are speaking and writing in the same spirit as the authors of the individual books of the bible, as well as the many influential writers we’ve read throughout the generations. Men like C.S. Lewis, Brennan Manning, Martin Luther, Francis Chan, Rob Bell, & John Wimber, to name a few. The major difference between these writers is their context, not the Spirit that inspired them to write.
This is me suggesting that you indulge yourself in the bible, either to have an educated opinion about the faith that you support, or the faith you reject. But in the same way that you wouldn’t read a narrative as you would a poem, or history in the same way you would read fiction, please understand the literary style of the book[s] you’re reading and read them as they were intended to be read.
If you have questions, you’re welcome to ask them in the comments or to email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org