I am reading a book suggested to me. My God seems content for me to read it. It is a book which addresses some of the questions I have over the bible and God. Questions like –
Why was God such a remote “Smite’Em God” in the Old Testament – why did He command genocide, summary execution, demand so much blood? How come He talked to a few direct when that wasn’t supposed to happen until Jesus – why could no one look upon His face? Why is Jesus such a “user friendly” version of God – why the difference between Old and New?
Against that is this: “The bible is God breathed – inspired – inerrant – infallible … “ Which makes my kind of questions a little tricky to discuss openly. So I have (very lovingly) found my own answers which has necessitated excusing God for the bits that don’t fit. Like genocide. Like all the blood. Like the summary executions. Like all the death and killing. I have justified that by believing that my God is misunderstood, that the Chosen People misunderstood God, that the remoteness of their relationship brought about these misunderstandings – that it may not have happened exactly that way.
And am brought up short against the “The bible is …” line. It did happen – and it happened exactly that way – the bible is the bible is the bible – and it IS the Word of God!
“The answer is always love – now what is your question?” Has never satisfied my deeper questions that I keep in a “I forgive you God” cupboard. A cupboard I tend with love (and no understanding) – for ”God is a mystery” and I see only darkly (obviously).
Now I find those questions are asked in this book (and I guess that “this book” will have as many detractors as supporters). God seems to attract polarisation. We prefer a “Yes or No” faith. We seem to like that clarity. And then fall back on – we expect to be persecuted – He is a mystery we see only darkly – because (guess what) the bible says so.
I do a lot of spreadsheet work. There is an error called a “circular reference”. It happens when I accidentally include the total (in the equation for the total I am seeking) so unless fixed – the answer will always be wrong. I find that same “circular reference” in a lot of the theology around me. The answer does not make sense – but no one seems to want to acknowledge the error warning.
And this book opens my own cupboard. And this writer embraces the “Smite ‘Em God” without compromise. He embraces all the blood. He looks at genocide. And he invites each reader to journey with him. And he finds the same love I have found – but (unlike me) with good reason and without (like me) having to forgive God along the way.
I am not going to review his book. I am still reading it. I am still absorbing what God wills for me through this book. Which is why I am comfortable to allow myself to be changed as God desires. Which is why I am happy to journey with someone who has not compromised as I have compromised. And which is why I invite you to take your own ticket for your own journey with your own God. For this book and my God are changing me.
And those changes change verses. The verses He brings me. Like this morning’s verses: Luke 13:22-30 … The narrow door. The I do not know you. The go away from me you evildoers. The last will be first and the first will be last (some of) … Those verses.
Whose language was Jesus speaking? The language of that time and place. Because Jesus meets each of us in our own time and place. And as Jesus is God then God must meet each of us in our time and our own place. And my time and place is here today. My time and place is not 2,000+ years ago.
My place is full of smart phones, instant messaging, global news in seconds. My time is full of my crazy politics, my regional wars, my famine and death, my greed and malice, my woe and more woe … And my love.
What do I find in my time and my place? I find love. So much love and goodness. So many connections of goodness and light. So much desire for love and fellowship.
The verses above were written by my predecessors all of whom had their own time and place. The Old Testament was written by my predecessors in their time and their place. But I read and write in my time and my place.
For example, I have written here (several times) about meeting my God Soft Hands Jesus dressed as batman in His batmobile. Imagine if that got into the bible. What would you make of such “verses” now (or in “any time and place”)?
Because if “the bible is the bible” – and these batman “verses” are in the ”God breathed – inspired – inerrant – infallible” bible … Would you be able to “embrace” finding God rocking up dressed as batman –
Or would you lovingly add Him to your own “I forgive you God” cupboard of unasked questions?
If you want your own ticket to ride – the book is by Peter Enns and is called “The Bible Tells Me So: Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us Unable to Read It”