My colleague and good friend Jason put out to the world a list of “7 things people think are in the Bible but actually aren’t.” You can read it here.
And it’s gone a bit viral, as well it should have. It’s good writing. And Jason is, by and large, correct in his list (despite the many Bible verses that those who disagree with him have quoted in the comments section).
What Jason sees, and what a large portion of people who identify as Christian and comment on his blog miss, is the difference between Bible quotation/citation and the theological discipline of Systematics.
Take his #7 example, for instance: The Rapture.
The Rapture as a theological concept, as a system, is not in the Bible. Sure, there are verses in the Bible that the creators of this theological concept used to come up with this particular pseudo-doctrine (it’s not, technically, a doctrine at all). And these quotations from Matthew and Ephesians and elsewhere lay a hodgepodge basis for this flimsy theological idea.
But the idea is not in there itself.
Just because you can quote a verse used to support a theological system does not mean that the theological system that uses that quotation as foundational is actually in scripture.
It often means someone did an good job of cutting and pasting.
So, for instance, when Jason says that “God hates ____” isn’t in the Bible, technically he’s incorrect. Sure, there are verses that name that God hates a lying tongue, a sly look, hands that shed innocent blood (Proverbs 6) as well as other things elsewhere.
But Jason isn’t talking about technicalities here, he’s talking about the broad scope view of a Bible seen through the lens of Jesus (a lens all Christians should view scripture). And by that standard, he’s correct.
The verses might be there; you can quote them. But the spirit of the scriptures as seen through Jesus is one of reconciliation. Dare we say: even reconciling these verses of Proverbs that claim God “hates” things?
Plus, Jason’s overarching point is that God never hates people for being people…so any argument that deflects from that main one is just a Straw Man argument, a philosophical fallacy.
Again, just because you quote a verse does not mean the theological concept is attested to in scripture.
But the biggest problem in this whole thing, I think, is the fear that people are meeting his assertions with.
Fear is pervasive in religion, even a religion based on peace and love.
Jason even received a note that warned him that the Bible “deals harshly with false prophets and heretics.”
First of all, my Bible has never dealt with me harshly. It doesn’t have arms or legs or weapons to do so. If it did, I’d need to do an exorcism, cause a Bible that can “deal with me harshly” is an inanimate object possessed.
Secondly, part and parcel with a literal view of scripture is the fear that comes from any viewpoint that might call objection to such a rigid reading of this spiritual document. If the Bible is just a list of verses that I access like an encyclopedia, I’d rather read Shakespeare, thank you.
At least Shakespeare has the ability to move me. No encyclopedia has moved me to do anything but play a word in Scrabble or squash a spider.
And I guess that’s a pretty good analogy. Because Jason was moved by scripture to free people from the assumptions they make about what the spirit of scriptures really say much like poetry and good stories free us to change the world.
And people responded by trying to play a move better than his and squash him.
I want to make a defense of a reasonable way of reading scriptures. For the Christian tradition, you cannot read any part of it except through the lens of Jesus the Christ. I do not see a way around that for a Christian.
And all other portions of scripture are good for teaching and edification…when read through the lens of Jesus.
When read on their own though, well, I’m afraid most Christians just end up trying to squash their neighbor like a spider.
So, are Jason’s assertions correct? Technically you might be able to point to specific verses to debunk his list. But the Bible is not an encyclopedia. It’s a story. And you have to read the whole thing to get the arch of the narrative. And, specifically here, you have to know the lens to read it with.
Through the lens of Jesus, his assertions are correct.
But I’m a reluctant Christian sometimes because we can’t put up with an encyclopedic reading of scripture anymore…and that seems to be what most places are offering. It’s just creating a lot of attempts to squash each other.
And a hell of a lot of fear.
Real talk. Cheers for this.
Can I reply to your blog post anonymously like his??!?!??! I found most people’s responses cowardly….it was much easier for them to bash Jason anonymously than have a cup of coffee with him and hear about his faith life. Great reply!
I agree with a lot of what you and Jason are saying, if not all of it. I just not too keen on the way it’s being said.
I guess I’m having a hard time figuring out how his blog post wasn’t also a bit of spider squashing, or even a strategic move. These are hard concepts to grasp, even for those of us who may agree to some degree. And sure, some respondents threw scripture back at him out of fear, but I think many may have done so out of defense, after feeling attacked.
Personally, I feel the tone of Jason’s post was a little arrogant, with a lot of talk about certain Christians who aren’t Jason, and a lot of imperatives against the reader. Even though I reason better, I’ve been guilty of leaning in on a few of the concepts his blog called out. For instance, who hasn’t tried to put reason to the randomness of life? I think tje tone of the post seems to indicate separation between him and “most Christians.”
If we’re to point God’s people to the Gospel, I think there’s a better way of doing it than to call out the many ways others, and not ourselves, should improve their theologies. It might start with a bit more humility. It might start with addressing these controversial topics individually and thoughtfully. What I think many people found in Jason’s post was an arrogant shotgun blast to their very understandings of their faith as followers of Jesus Christ. As pastors, I think we’re called to be a bit more gracious.
A good thought, Chad, and valid points.
I guess a question I’d ask is: What form and function shocks to the system serve to evoking change?
I think you offer a valid critique of both posts. Language, tone, style…these are important considerations for all people when speaking of faith. And choices are made with particular ends in sight. I think with this particular post, the point was shock as well as information.
And that has a place in the discussion.
Thanks for reading and sharing, though. Many blessings on the work going on in Iowa!