I talked to her this weekend.
It was a long conversation.
We talked about Christianity.
Aren't other religions really worshiping the same God we are?
What if Jesus wasn't fully human and fully God, only fully human?
Society asks these questions, too.
Does the Bible really say homosexuality is wrong?
Isn't the God of the Old Testament different from the God of the New Testament?
Honestly, I don't have all the answers,
But I know how I'd find the answers each of those questions.
I'd look in my Bible.
There's a verse I learned when I was in high school,
One that has been made very real to me in the past few years
As I struggle to understand everything going on in this world,
As I struggle to find truth in the confusion.
2 Timothy 3:16New International Version (NIV)16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness[.]
"All Scripture is God-breathed."
Not "a little",
(For anyone currently thinking of how we ended up with our 66 books of the Bible and everything that was left out, I fully admit to not knowing everything, but, to my understanding, the books that we have were the ones widely accepted as Scripture at the time, and I believe that the Holy Spirit helped the early Christians to discern which books were true Scripture and which ones were not.)
The problem is, the American church often doesn't preach - or act - as if 2 Timothy 3:16 existed.
I've sat through a sermon about how the Biblical versions of the Christmas story found in various gospel books couldn't possibly all be true.
I've never sat through a sermon about God instructing the Israelite army to slaughter entire peoples.
I've never even heard that read in church.
Why not? It's in the Bible.
"Well, God is loving, so we want to be sure everyone understands how loving He is . . ."
Yes, that's true.
The problem is, God is not only loving.
God's love is just one aspect of His character.
He is also just.
There's a major issue when we only talking about certain aspects of God's character and we ignore the others:
When we do this, we are not worshiping God, but an idol.
We are making Him less than He is just so that our simple minds will be able to comprehend Him.
There's a problem with this, too.
He is too great for us to comprehend,
And, honestly, I don't want a God I can comprehend.
I want a God so big and great and awesome that I can't wrap my mind around Him.
No, that's not easy.
It's much simpler to imagine God as only loving and leave out His justice.
It's much simpler to imagine Jesus as only human and not also fully God.
It's much simpler to pretend the Holy Spirit doesn't exist.
It's much simpler to worship an idol than to worship the One True God.
Because it's easier to worship an idol and leave important things out (and because the church, consciously or not, tends to promote it), American Christians tend to want to take the Bible a la carte.
"Well, I don't believe that the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden actually happened. That's just totally crazy."
"Well, I don't believe in the virgin birth because it's scientifically impossible."
"Well, I don't believe Jesus actually said this because it seems like He ends up contradicting Himself."
We intentionally put holes in the Word of God.
I am so guilty of this, too.
I didn't used to think that I needed to read the Bible.
After all, I went to church, I learned the stories.
That was what was important, right?
I was missing all the parts in between the famous stories,
I knew that Aaron made a golden calf and that God took those people back,
But I didn't know that some didn't return to Him and He instructed the ones who did come back to slaughter their idol-worshiping neighbors.
I knew that the disciples believed Christ would come back within their lifetimes,
But I didn't know that they believed that because He told them that some of them would still be alive when He returned.
We ignore these things because they're hard,
Because our idol-god is only loving and not just,
Because we don't want to wrestle through the contradictions and find the answers.
(And it is possible to find many, though not all, of the answers. I've found explanations for the "contradictions" I just mentioned through prayer, reading the Bible, and learning to understand God's true character.)
We want this to be easy.
We want to understand everything.
The problem is, we just can't.
We often ignore passages of Scripture because they don't fit into today's society.
We want to fit into our cultures definition of "tolerant".
We think we can do this if we start believing that other faiths are also true.
We won't have to step out of our comfort zones to love people where they are.
We won't have to deal with society thinking we're weird (well, weirder than they already think we are).
The problem is, either the Bible's right or it's wrong.
If it's right, it blatantly contradicts other faiths.
That means that those faiths are wrong.
Of course, we can't actually say or acknowledge that, because our culture tells us to be "tolerant",
To accept every view as right.
"The Buddhist is right, the Hindu is right, the Muslim is right, the Christian is right, the atheist is right, . . ."
Either there is a God or there isn't.
Either there is one God or there are many gods.
Either salvation is achieved through works or given by grace.
Either the Bible is God's Word or it isn't.
There is no middle ground.
It's all or nothing.
Does this mean we can't/shouldn't be tolerant?
Of course not!
Look at Jesus!
Also, look at a more accurate definition of tolerance:
"Classical tolerance involves three elements: (1) permitting or allowing (2) a conduct or point of view one disagrees with (3) while respecting the person in the process." - Gregory KokulIf we look at what tolerance is meant to be rather than what our culture defines tolerance as
We'll see that we can't be tolerant unless we disagree.
So, what do you think?
Is all of Scripture God-breathed,
His inerrant Word,
Worthy of our study,
Worthy of our belief,
Or is it what culture defines it as,
Just another book
With nice ideas,
But not any more true than any other?
It's all or nothing.
There is no middle ground.
Are you going to accept the whole Bible or are you going to reject the whole Bible?
I know I'm not a theologian.
I know I don't have all the answers.
I know I might be wrong,
But, honestly, I don't think I am,
Because I believe in God
And I believe in His Word -
All of it -
And I believe that His Word is clear on this matter.
We should start printing Bibles with a notice on the front:
This book not available a la carte.
It's all or nothing.
Take it or leave it."
You can disagree with me if you want,
I promise I'll be tolerant,
But please don't disagree out of principle
Or out of your own thoughts.
Read your Bible.
Discover His Word for yourself.
Find your truth in Him, not this crazy, messed-up world we live in.
I hope you do search.
I hope you only accept as truth what really comes from Him,
Not what someone else claims comes from Him,
And I hope you discover that His word is alive,
Living, breathing, applicable to our daily lives,
And that it is whole and inerrant.
I know it's hard to read that way.
I know it's more than our limited minds can comprehend,
But I hope you try.
I know it's been awhile since I've written here.
Hopefully, though, I'll have time tomorrow.
It's Walk With Him Wednesday at my favorite blog,
And I'm hoping to join in with some new lyrics on that very topic,
Specifically, walking with Him when we think we have everything under control.
It'll probably be a short post, but after this, that's probably a good thing.