We were told that we were inherently evil. We were told that we deserved the flames of hell, and not for anything that we’ve done. Our sin passed down to us through the ages from our first mother and father: Adam and Eve.
They opened Pandora’s Box, and doomed all of humanity to eternity in Hell. God was playing an evil cosmic joke on them by tempting them with the forbidden fruit and not educating them properly about the heavy cost required – not just by them, but by their descendants through to the end of time.
Does this sound like God to you? Because to me, this sounds like some troll playing God. This sounds like someone who was looking for an excuse to punish and condemn his own creation. This doesn’t sound like a God who I can believe loves me and wants the best for me. This sounds like a bully.
They told us that this God who would entrap His own beloved children, and then he’d require death to soothe his wrath against them. First, He settled for the blood of innocent animals, but occasionally He demanded human life.
Eventually, He condemned His own Son to a brutal death on our behalf so that we wouldn’t have to pay for our sin with our own blood.
They told us this was the true and holy character of God.
They told us that they knew this because the Bible is infallible and inerrant. They told us they knew this because they knew the trick to reading the Bible was to read it literally as if it accurately portrayed historical events.
They could not see how their insistence on reading the Bible the way they did actually taught us to blaspheme the character of God instead of honoring Him.
They took writings from an ancient culture and projected their own ideas on to it. They robbed these writings of their own unique context, which was lost to the sands of time for so many of us. We didn’t know how the original audience interpreted the texts. We thought we knew, but we didn’t. We simply assumed they would approach these words the same way that we were taught to.
Despite the lack of historical evidence confirming that these tales ever took place, they told us to have faith that God acted in the world exactly as the text says He did. Even when that narrative goes against what we know to be true about God’s character.
Perhaps they were wrong when they told us that God is love.
Perhaps God only loves a select few, and the rest will feel the burn of his wrath for no other reason than the fact that two people we never met, who didn’t understand the consequences of disobeying a seemingly arbitrary rule about food God deliberately put within their reach, chose to do the logical thing and ignore the random rule that made no sense to them.
Or, perhaps, there’s another option.
What if the Bible isn’t meant to be a history book?
What if its a collection of books, of varying genres, of very fallible human beings projecting their own understanding of who God is? What if, instead of hearing God’s voice telling them to take innocent lives, they heard the voice of their own cultural narratives and believed that to be God speaking?
What if the Bible is nothing more than a reading of a nation, over a period of hundreds of years, coming to terms with their collective identity as a people group and who God was supposed to be to them? What if, as the texts of the Bible grew, their understanding of God grew and changed along with it?
What if so many of these stories that we were told to read as accurate historical memories of what happened centuries ago were actually meant to be read as allegories or parables? Maybe the truth wasn’t in what really happened, but rather in what the story has to teach us.
That might explain why we see similarities between myths from other faiths re-written in the Bible, or descriptions of other gods projected onto the God of Israel. Would it be a threat to Christ or Christianity itself to allow for the fact that human fingerprints are found all over the pages of Scripture? Would it invalidate God’s holiness if we can find pieces of ancient culture hiding in the text that might have biased the theology of the day?
I don’t think so.
I think shiftings of beliefs and philosophies are things that we can trace back through time. We see it in the pages of our Bible; we can see theology changing over time. We can see humanity’s understanding of and relationship with God change as well.
Spirituality has never been a static existence, and we cannot claim that this has ever been the case. The Bible shows us too much diversity of beliefs and morals to believe that absolute truth has ever been revealed in its entirety to any human.
The Bible leaves room for us to feel troubled, be confused, disagree, and even argue with the conclusions it makes. The Bible leaves room for us to question it and to keep returning to its pages to find truth and to find God.
It’s never going to show us the full picture of who God is, but it was never meant to. The only thing it can do is show you snapshots of a people as they fought to understand who this holy Being is.
That said, there are a few things that I do feel confident in stating as absolute truth that never changes with the passing of time:
- God is good and God is love
- We are created in the image of God
- Because we reflect the image of God, we know that we are good too
- God is a good Heavenly Parent who will never look for reasons to punish us
When we get right down to it, I believe the Bible is a much more beautiful book now when I can finally let myself see it’s imperfections and flaws; when I can see humanity portrayed throughout; when I can really start to tease out the culture of the day instead of projecting my own.
It doesn’t have to be inerrant to be holy.
It also doesn’t have to be infallible to lead people to Jesus.