I am not like most liberals because I believe that the Bible is the Word of God and, as such, it’s true and it’s relevant, and it’s also authorative.
But let me say that there are certain parts that I am really uncomfortable with as well.
But, I can’t easily reject them for two reasons.
One reason is past experience. I have frequently misunderstood what the Bible is saying. This is most often the case with the parts that I don’t like. It frequently happens that realize I had been misreading the Bible my whole life. I’ll be reading something or listening to a sermon and I find a beautiful resolution to these puzzling passages.
Take, for example, the problem of hell–how could a loving God send people to hell. That really bugged me for a long time, but then I read C. S. Lewis’ “The Great Divorce” and saw that God’s role is not so much sending people to hell as allowing people to choose to walk away from him–we were made to be with him, and to not be with him will be hellish. This idea of God allowing human beings to choose is central to the teachings of the Bible (and I might point out, liberal democracies). The problem of hell is still with me, but I’ve discovered enough through reading the Bible and other folks much smarter than I am that it is not necessarily incompatible with a loving God. By the time I got to reading Rob Bell’s book, Love Wins, I benefited from his critique on the Christian approach to the idea of hell, without accepting many of his conclusions.
Yesterday I came across another thought in Dr. John Patrick’s keynote from last year’s Apologetics Canada Conference. The idea was this: It’s not too hard to accept that God is both pure Love and pure Justice. Just as it is inconceivable that a loving God allow people to be in hell, it is also just as inconceivable that a just God would allow people into heaven, but nobody argues about that. It is a puzzling paradox, but it makes some sense if God is both living AND just.
There are still passages that are puzzle me, or that I just don’t like. But I am no longer tempted to reject the Bible because of them, because perhaps I am misinterpreting it.
The second reason why I don’t reject the Bible because I don’t like what’s in it is–If the Bible were truly the word of God, then I doubt it would say only things I agreed with. I doubt it would only say the things that citizens of 21st century liberal democracies liked.
If the Bible really were the word of a transcendent God, it is highly doubtful that it would present only those ideas that are palatable us, only here and only now. That wouldn’t make any sense, especially since we keep changing our idea of what is right and wrong/good and evil every few centuries, or decades, or years. I haven’t been on this planet for very long, yet in my mere 50 years I have seen a lot of change. If the Bible perfectly conformed with culture, it would be reasonable to assume that authors of culture were God, and not the ultimate author of the Bible.
One of the arguments in favour of the Bible actually being the word of a transcendent God is that there are parts I am very uncomfortable with.
I understand that a significant barrier to acceptance of the Bible in (some) African cultures is that it demands we forgive each other. In North America, we have no problem forgiveness, but apparently this is as hard for them to accept as, say, sexual constraint is for North Americans.
I think the Bible is true, even though there are some parts that we have a lot of trouble with.
In some cases, we are troubled because we think it’s saying what it actually isn’t. In others, it’s actually putting its finger on an area where the Creator of the Cosmos is telling us we have strayed from the path of righteousness.
The trick is knowing which we are dealing with.