Is The Bible True?
One of the many things that I get asked as a pastor is, "Do you believe that all the things in the Bible happened exactly as they are written?"
Now let me tell you, that kind of a question is not easy to answer, especially if the person who is asking the question is someone who is a skeptic or is actually antagonistic toward the Bible.
It can also be a tough question to try to answer if the person asking is someone who is just trying to start an argument, or who is trying to "Ah-ha!" me as a false prophet, who doesn't "believe the Bible."
It's the equivalent of trying to answer a question like, "Does this dress make me look fat?"
When you hear a question like that, you kind of freeze, and your mind begins racing through all of the available answers that won't get you into trouble, or cause an argument, or turn you into some kind of heel.
It's in those moments that I wish that a bunch of the stories in the Bible weren't as cloudy, fantastic, and honestly... hard to take at face value. It would be so much easier to be an apologist if the texts were clear and unambiguous. They aren't.
And there's a good reason for that. The texts in the Bible reflect the situations, contexts, and struggles of people to understand God and to be faithful in their understanding at particular places and moments in time.
These are the stories of people throughout the ages who are waking up to the reality of God, and then trying to explain what they are experiencing using language, metaphors, stories, poems, and histories that make sense to them.
And if you are paying attention, you can see how throughout the ages how people grew in their understanding of God as they began to understand the world better, became more connected to people outside their tribe, and developed more mature ways of living out their faith.
We shouldn't gloss over the texts in Scripture, or selectively remove what we don't agree with or like. We shouldn't rewrite them to suit us or spend countless hours and tons of energy trying to "prove" them, either.
Author and poet Padraig O'Tuama once wrote:
To rid the Bible of these unfinished storylines would be to rid ourselves of our own unfinished storyline. We must remember. We must bear witness. We must read the past as the unfinished story that keeps us changing.
I absolutely love this. It offers us a way of understanding the Bible that is grounded in a higher form of truth---the kind that transcends our petty arguments and our often myopic way of viewing the text.
Let me say this: Far too many Christians spend their time trying to debate the facts of Scripture. But what I've learned over time is that something doesn't have to be factual to be true.
The proof of whether the Bible is true is never found in a debate about the facts, but rather in the way the Bible still has the power to spark conversations (like this one), and effect transformation in people's lives.
As you read or study the Bible, let the truth of it fall upon you. Remember how your own story has been transformed because of it, or at least because of faith communities that held it dear. Bear witness to its transforming power by reading it critically and faithfully.
And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.