Yesterday, TGC posted an article called, “Questioning Within the Borders of Faith.” The author told the story of his journey to college—a story not so different from my own.
He went through a time of deep devotion to God. A time of growing and learning.
And then it happened…
He found out that some people have a different view of the Bible.
Lectures on the subject of Higher Criticism and theories such as the JEDP hypothesis (a theory many scholars hold, which states that the Pentateuch was written by several authors rather than just Moses) led him to question the integrity of the Bible.
Here is where our stories begin to diverge.
He did what many of us in the Evangelical community do. We hang our faith completely on the Bible. If a single sentence in it is discovered to be historically inaccurate or inconsistent with another passage, then our entire faith comes to a crashing, burning, bloody end.
So, we lock up our Bibles and stow them away from people who desire to question it. We demonize their questions and call them “attempts to deconstruct the integrity of the Bible.” In an act of fear-disguised-as-faith, we completely separate ourselves from reason and refuse to question anything outside of what we already believe.
I am reminded of the children’s song we sang throughout my childhood:
Yes, that’s the book for me
I stand alone on the Word of God
Several writers have wrestled with the question issue of “Why Millennials are Leaving the Church.”
If I may add my two cents; I believe this is a major reason. We are taught to “Stand alone on the Word of God.” But, we are never taught how to deal with the difficult parts of it.
Throughout my childhood I was taught never to question God. I was taught to use the Bible to support what I believe. I was taught that anyone who believes in evolution is an immoral God-hater. I was taught that female pastors, alcohol drinkers, and Democrats were the kind of people who twist God’s Word to fit their sinful “agenda.”
And then it happened.
I found out that some people have a different view of the Bible.
I found out that the Pentateuch was almost certainly not written by one person. I found out that Genesis 1-2 isn’t about causation, but function and order. I learned about the women leading God’s people all throughout Scripture. I learned about the inconsistencies with the number of Israelites who left Egypt and about the fact that history shows no record of the Ninevites ever repenting from violence. Most difficult of all, I had to face the fact the God of the Old Testament doesn’t always seem to line up with the person of Jesus Christ, who is supposed to be the fullness of God revealed.
My faith began to crumble because it was in the B-I-B-L-E alone.
Then, I realized that my faith shouldn’t stand on the Bible alone, but in Christ alone. I don’t have to be afraid of questioning outside of my faith in the Bible. Yes, I believe it is God’s Word. I believe that it is profitable for teaching, rebuking, and for instructing in righteousness. But, if I find out that less than 2 million people exited Egypt or that God made the world in more than 6 days, the integrity of God’s Word isn’t compromised.
My faith isn’t in the historical/scientific reliability of every jot and tittle, but in what it tells me about who God is. My faith is in the fact that he used all of those people to bring us the Bible in all of its difficult, dirty, grimy glory. I love the Bible. And it is precisely because of that love that I choose to question it.
Barbara Brown Taylor wrote,
“For all the human handiwork it displays, the Bible remains a peculiarly holy book. I cannot think of any other text that has such authority over me, interpreting me faster than I can interpret it. It speaks to me not with the stuffy voice of some mummified sage but with the fresh, lively tones of someone who knows what happened to me an hour ago…The Bible is my birth certificate and my family tree, but it is more: it is the living vein that connects me to my maker, pumping me the stories I need to know about who we have been to one another from the beginning of time, and who we are now, and who we shall be when time is no more” (The Preaching Life, 52).
The easy road is to avoid the questions—to avoid the real struggles that, for many, resulted in a loss of faith altogether. So, I say: let those evil textual critics take our Bibles and dissect them. Let them analyze every single detail. And let us use our God-given reason to wrestle with their findings so that we can have a better understanding of what the Bible is and what it isn’t. Even better, let’s get in on the conversation and analyze it for ourselves. Let us not fear questioning outside of our faith. We are a part of a Kingdom that cannot be shaken, not because it is built on the Bible, but because it is built on Christ.
I am reminded of another—better—song:
“On Christ, the Solid Rock, I stand
All other ground is sinking sand
All other ground is sinking sand”