In my little Christian corner of the world, the bible was referred to as, “The Word of God.”
The bible was god’s authoritative Word. His ‘love letter’ to his people. We considered the bible to be god- breathed, inerrant, and the infallible truth of god. It was good for preaching, teaching, rebuking … a veritable roadmap for living the Christian life.
I peeked at my old church’s current website yesterday and they say almost exactly those words to describe their beliefs about the bible. Not much has changed with them, I guess. In fact, most Christians I know still hold to those beliefs. Although, I’m beginning to observe some changes here and there.
I had a conversation with my teenage son yesterday. He put into words the very thing I’d been thinking on when I first started working on this post. He said, “Technology is chipping away at archaic beliefs.” He went on to tell me that his Christian friends say they consider the book of Leviticus to be pure garbage.
I did not feel the freedom as a young Christian to dismiss any book of the bible as trash even if I read it and was repulsed. But I also didn’t have a computer to run to for deeper evaluation. Because information was harder to come by, claims about bible inerrancy or infallibility went unchecked. We just trusted. Call it faith. I accepted even the repulsive stuff.
That doesn’t mean I didn’t do my fair share of digging for answers as best I could because, frankly, I WAS often repulsed. (If you’ve not read my page, Why I Left: The Short Version, it might help you get the big picture).
Without a computer, my process for study would begin with the bible (usually several versions) and the help of a Strong’s Concordance. If that didn’t suffice, I’d drive to the Christian bookstore and find a book … or ten. If I was still left wanting, I’d talk to a trusted authority. All of which was bathed in endless prayer. Duh.
Today, forget all that work. Now we just Google. Kids my son’s age have resources I didn’t have. People in his generation will have the ability to see the bible in a different light than I did at their age.
Take the claim that there are no contradictions in the bible. This was a common belief among Christians in the ’80’s. At first blush, it appeared to me to be quite the daunting task to disprove that claim. The bible is like, what, a bazillion inches thick? Might as well be War and Peace. I know now that a simple comparison of the gospels would have done the trick. But as a new Christian in the faith, I didn’t know that then. I just saw a huge book and heard a trusted authority telling me it was so.
But I was a student at my core, and curious to a fault. Over time, I DID stumble upon contradictions. But by the time I started putting two and two together for myself, I’d been a bible-defending believer for YEARS. It was yet another quandary in the faith … did all those bible teachers just not know?
Try telling a kid today the bible has no contradictions. She’ll prove you wrong within a few keystrokes.
Recently I stumbled upon a quiz I found online that asked the question, How Much Do You Know About The Bible? And I thought, well, damn. I know a lot. Let’s take that quiz!
Know what I scored on that test? 0%. Zero. Nadda. It’s the perfect illustration for how the bible trips all over itself with contradictory information. Took me years to figure out that it wasn’t the reliable source I’d been led to believe. Take the quiz for yourself to see how you do: