The Bible is indispensable for you and me. There’s life in its pages, life that cannot be found anywhere else. Let’s get that out of the way right up front. The Bible is a gift from God.
I wonder sometimes if we haven’t elevated the Bible above where it ought to be, if we haven’t made more of it than God intends for it to be to us.
As a species, we have this tendency, you know, towards extremism. Anything that’s good, we idolize. Anything that is uncomfortable, we demonize. Anything that is questionable, we outlaw. We seem inclined to over-simplify issues, and I wonder if we haven’t done that with the Scriptures.
I heard someone confess, recently that "... he no longer regards the Bible as inerrant, dictated by God, historically accurate in all of its claims or even internally consistent with itself." (Others have asked similar questions with different details. This is the list that came before me, so I’m reflecting on this list.)
Believers have bled and died over those four points points: Is the Bible:
Dictated by God?
Historically accurate in every detail?
We’ve always been taught (or some of us have) that these are true, that the Bible is all of these things. But is it really?
Since I’ve grown up with a very healthy respect for the Bible, my first reaction was something akin to offense that anyone would even question these attributes. I’m not fond of offense in myself, so I try to examine my offenses when they occur.
And two thoughts occurred to me as I thought about this topic:
1. We’ve always assumed (I have always assumed) that these attributes were true about the Bible. Assumptions are dangerous things. And
2. These are not attributes that the Bible actually ever (as far as I can discern) claims for itself. The Bible does not, within its pages, ever claim to be inerrant (though it is “God-breathed” or God-inspired”) or dictated by the Almighty (in fact it claims the opposite), or historically accurate in every detail (much of it does not even aspire to be an historical record), nor does it claim that it is completely consistent within itself (though, in fact, it is remarkably consistent, it is not perfectly so).
And all of this leads me to consider these tentative conclusions:
If these are not attributes that the Bible ever claims for itself, then they must be attributes that people, human beings, have thrust upon it, and this must have happened after the Bible was written.
These sort of claims are not likely to be attributed to the Scriptures by secular people, or by contemplative mystics. These are the sort of claims that are more likely to come from a religious spirit.
I would rather not embrace conclusions that spring from a religious spirit, not even when those conclusions revere things (the Bible) that I hold in very high esteem, not even when they’re (presumably) made with good intentions.
None of this will challenge my love for the Scriptures. None of this will diminish the hours I spend in its pages, drawing life from it as Holy Spirit gently and consistently breathes it into my soul.
But I believe I’ll attempt to not attribute to the Bible things that the Bible does not claim for itself. If nothing else, that strikes me as a violation of the command to avoid adding to the Book.