Or…What to do with a Bible that says hard things?
“Then the anger of the Lord was kindled against his people….” –Psalm 106:40
We hear a lot about how “God loves the sinner, hates the sin.” Did you know that the Bible actually says (in 25 places no less) that God is angry with the people doing the sinning? How many times does the Bible say, “Loves the sinner, hates the sin”? A quick search in Logos Bible software found…zero. None. Nada. Zip.
That’s right, according to the Bible, God is angry not just with “sin,” but with the people committing the sins.
So what do we do with a Bible that says hard things? Things that make us cringe when we read them. Or when someone else reads them and asks us about it.
My honest friends say, “I just ignore the stuff I don’t like.” But, unlike our teeth, ignoring Scripture does not make it go away.
We have two polarities: On one side are the uber-fundamentalists who use the Bible as a bat to bludgeon people with whom they disagree. This group tends to be fantastic at seeing past their own logs to other’s splinters. But I fear another extreme: One in which the Scriptures are dismissed outright. As a friend of mine said on facebook the other day, “When my idea of God and the Bible are in conflict, my concept of God wins…because I worship God not a book.”
The last time I checked I have a finite 5”x 7” head, whereas God, by definition, is infinite intelligence. God, dwelling outside of time and space, can only be known by those of us within time and space if he chooses to reveal himself to us. Luckily God has, through a Son, Jesus. (Heb 1) How do we know this Jesus? Well, the New Testament is not just our primary, but virtually our only source of information on Jesus, God with skin on. The eyewitnesses wrote the Scriptures to reveal that God-in-flesh to us. The Holy Spirit quickens those words in our hearts as faith. When I only believe that which makes sense to me, I am not only cutting myself off from the power of transformation present, but putting my own mind in the role of the definer of reality…i.e. I just gave myself the “god job.” That seems to me to be a place of significant terror.
Not to say that the Bible isn’t nuanced or difficult or complex. It is all of those things. I am not saying that we do not need to interpret what we read, we do. But shouldn’t our method of interpretation be more faithful and consistent than “I only believe what I like.”
Hildegard of Bingen (1098 – 1179) taught that the revelation of Jesus Christ unified and made coherent all Scripture: “In that same vision (of Christ) I understood the writings of the prophets, the Gospels….”
God gets to determine our reality, and God is revealed in Scripture. Anything else leads to the idolatry of self.
Or, I could just decide to be my own God…to let my 5″x 7″ determine my reality…and when the Bible disagrees with what I want God to be like, I can just go with whatever it is that I like…because, hey, I worship the most holy trinity of me, myself and I.