There are many taught ways to read the bible. Following a daily plan. Either a few verses or many. The whole bible or the gospels. From beginning to end or without end. A word at a time or quickly.
All presuppose a living relationship with these letters made words made verses made chapters made books made bible. All assume a belief in a real and living God. A trinity. A triune. Of the spiritual and physical. Eternal and infinite. Centred on the Chosen People – the twelve tribes – the ones chosen by God – the God fulfilled in Jesus – and a defined Spirit with each of us today who have been saved, as the essence of God and Jesus.
That is of lot of baggage simply by opening the bible.
Now just suppose I don’t believe / agree / endorse all that baggage of presupposition and assumption wrapped up in the corporate creed of “I believe … “. What am I to do? For the bible is the handbook of the Christian, and a Christian publicly declares “I believe … “ the corporate creed.
And that, it seems to me, is where it all gets very tricksy.
“I believe …” … … … what exactly?
The creeds … the inerrant and infallible … the creation … the talking snake … the killings … blood … more killings … the timeline … the exclusivity of “established myth” from “biblical fact”?
The drowning of all life except one small localised boatload … the constant sacrifice … the excruciating rituals … the uncleanliness and isolation of so many … the brutal consequences of independence and “wrong thinking” … the killing and genocide … the multitude of laws … the pointless wandering … the agenda of control … the chronological confusion … the modern-day excuse after excuse for all of that …
All then wiped clean with Jesus whose primary purpose was to put right the fiction of creation as detailed and endorsed (“I believe … “) by yet more killing and blood. All still “I believe … “ without question in this time of smartphones, easy flights to anywhere and everywhere, transplants that extend life, technology that eases living, but still massive wealth and poverty inequality – still a prosperous church all of whom unite in “I believe… ” Which bits do “I believe … ” – or do I have to believe it all?
Because I don’t anymore.
I don’t believe it “all” as I was taught to accept and believe it all – as a child – then as I heard and saw – as I still hear and see – taught week after week. If “I believe … “ is believing it all then we all seem to skim over the troublesome bits – the “of course it probably all happened but …” bits.
The “but bits” left to the qualified – to the church institutions to explain. People not like me. People who have been saved and simply want to get on and enjoy being saved. The bible is bound up as the glue that keeps everyone together. Challenge the bible and I challenge everyone. And that means challenging God Himself. And who would challenge the very One we worship and praise and pray to and serve?
But “all that” is not what I challenge. What I challenge is none of that.
What I challenge is having to believe all of that – having to nod along to all of that – having to pay lip service to all of that – having to suffer people saying “be blessed” at the end of every email and message – having to not challenge people who use public prayer like an “immunity card” for their personal prejudices – having to sway along to corny Christian anthems – having to go along with it all (publicly) whilst being told (privately) there are many who do challenge – that “we are a broad church” …
That “we” have those who worship naked OR worship in all their church finery – who take communion among the trees OR have children lead worship in child-style-language – who have high church OR low church AND weird church AND off-the-wall church AND not really church at all AS WELL AS this public “traditional church” – which is why “we” are a “broad church”.
And once again comes back to me simply finding the “right church”. And once again the bible is not the reason. The bible never is.
And more and more I wonder why. Why must the bible be kept out of reach of reality – keeping me from you (in reality) – keeping me (and you?) in line (publicly)?
And the reason I mention any of this … I thought when I was saved –
I was saved from all this public “lip service stuff” too.