Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Truth and the Bible

I know I've written something similar before, probably many times. Perhaps last month. But I had occasion to write this for another reason, so I thought it would be good to share. Sorry the Tuesday post is a day late.

I had a struggle in freshman year of college, I went into a class and was told something that bothered me to my core and changed my perception of the world and my place in it. It was Introduction to History and my professor told me: "History has only been around since the 1700's."

What he meant was simply that the study of history as the pursuit of factual knowledge of the past is a relatively modern concept - when, in the modern era, we began to attempt to separate what happened from the biases of those witnesses who recorded it.

Prior to that (including the world view of everyone who wrote scripture and the first 1000+ years of interpreters) people were working with an entirely different definition of "facts" and "history." "Histories" were written not to recount an event, but to provide some lesson from such events; they were written not to serve the past but to serve the present.

In that light, we look to scripture for what it intends to do: namely to provide a trustworthy foundation for creation's relationship to its creator. Our faith does not rest on the trustworthiness of the scripture, but on the trustworthiness of the one to whom our scripture testifies.

I take the Bible literally. I have no problem saying so. To take the Bible literally, it requires an ongoing process of discovery, learning about the people and cultures who shaped the narrative, the languages and processes through which we see and understand what is written.

The inspiration of scripture is far broader than the men who put ink to parchment, it encompasses the oral tradition that preceded them, the editors and compilers who brought the texts to their present form, the councils and elders who debated the canon, the readers and scholars who study the text, those who preach, teach, and proclaim it, as well as each and every one of us who hears and receives this marvelous testament to almighty God.

For me, this is exactly what the text means when it says the word of God is living and active - it is not simply words on a page, but a relationship that extends across all time. For us to think we can nail down exactly what it says misses the whole point.

The Bible is not fiction and it is not non-fiction; it is scripture and it is true. We can't simply reduce it to logical categories (and that goes just as much for the "liberals" and the "conservatives" - both equally upset me in their casual superiority), because the thing itself, by its very nature, prevents it.

We can and should certainly discuss the various ways in which we read and understand this scripture, we should challenge and be challenged in love and good faith, to examine ourselves in light of what we read not to read in light of what we know (or think we know). To me, this is what it means to have a high view of scripture.

No comments: