It helps no one, including oneself, to ignore inconvenient facts. That’s true whether one is analyzing a client’s case or evaluating a New Year’s resolution’s chance of success. Accordingly, I started with the last two posts. Despite these concerns, the Bible remains important, even precious to me.
It is a great work of Western Civilization. In January, I’m going to start reading the Great Books of Western Civilization. There are reasons to read these books, even if modern works or non-western works are “better,” and those reasons apply to the Bible. They provide reference points for other works. Themes developed there have found their way into the fabric of our culture. See, e.g., I’m not my brothers keeper, I wash my hands of it, the writing is on the wall.
It is a source of authority to for roughly two billion people. A part of what I want to do as a Christian is to motivate others and to advocate for justice. The Bible provides a common language that might otherwise be unavailable to me. It also provides certain starting points. For example, even Bill O’Reilly recently conceded that no reasonable person could deny the need to help those who can’t help themselves.
It provides a connection to my spiritual predecessors. To be sure, the religion I practice is distinct from that practiced by the semitic people inhabiting a region just north of Egypt on the Mediterranean 3000 years ago. Nonetheless, my faith has evolved from theirs. And, while reading a scholarly work can provide intellectual context, the Bible provides a more human context. It is one thing to know that spiritual purity was important to the Hebrews, it is another to read hundreds of rules dealing with the topic. It is the difference between reading someone’s obituary and reading someone’s journal.
Parts of it are intellectually stimulating. I have had marvelous discussions focused on good and evil as presented in the story of Deborah. My dad has several books devoted to issues raised in Job. And there is plenty of other grist for the mental mill.
Parts of it are moving. This is where I get back some of the stuff that I have had to admit is not squarely located within the text. Reading of Jesus’ treatment of the outcast speaks to me in a way that motivates me to strive for equality. It inspires me to fight for justice for those society condemns. Another reader will find within the Scripture a celebration of life as the ultimate gift from God and be moved to fight for maintaining it always and particularly at the extremes. And that’s okay with me. It is okay that the Bible inspires us both, but differently. It is still a source of inspiration for me.