Saturday, 30 May 2009

So you believe the Bible is the Word of God. Really?

At a service I attended recently, the Bible readings were done by two teenagers. Both made a mess of it. They were reasonably intelligent young people, but had obviously not bothered to rehearse the reading beforehand. One of them got hopelessly tongue-twisted on a fairly simple biblical name, and the congregation laughed sympathetically. And this is an "evangelical" church where people insist they believe the Bible is the Word of God!

Readings are often taken by young people, children, or lay people. Why? To give the minister's voice a rest? To encourage someone who might otherwise lose interest in coming to church? Or because, while you need a properly educated and ordained person to preach the sermon or administer the sacraments, anybody will do for the "Word of God"?

Even worse perhaps, many "evangelical" services these days have little or no Bible reading at all - it's crowded out by loads of sentimental choruses and self-centred prayers.

When people say "I believe the Bible is the Word of God", the first thing I want to say is "Have you read it? and if not, why not?" If it really is God's Word, how can you possibly be so casual about not having read much of it? What more important things do you have to do?

And then if people do read it, how much do they actually believe it? We easily get round many of the Old Testament commandments - not eating pork, stoning adulterers to death, feeling OK about owning slaves etc. - by saying these are laws abrogated by Christ. But if they are in the Bible they must be the Word of God. So what do we mean? That they are (or were?) the Word of God, but not to us?

Even parts of the New Testament are treated in this way. Women preachers shout about the Bible being the infallible Word of God, conveniently ignoring the fact that according to the New Testament they shouldn't be preaching at all! There is increasing acceptance in "evangelical" churches today of divorce and re-marriage - a good thing in my opinion, but not exacly biblical. So how much do people really believe this is the Word of God?

The way some people shout about the Bible being "the Word of God" makes it little more than a slogan with no practical implications. Perhaps we should all - "evangelicals" and "liberals" alike - stop this silly posturing and start really reading the Bible and treating it with the respect it deserves. Better to disagree with it respectfully than to "believe" it without bothering to read it.

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