Here is the text of my latest Credo article – just published in this week’s Newark Advertiser.
Let me know what you think
The Bible is a very important book for Christians and how we understand its role and significance is fundamental to understanding our faith. Different Christians have differing views about this.
There are some Christians who take the view that everything in the Bible is factually accurate in every respect. To such people there is no dispute that the world and everything in it was created over 6 days, that Jonah lived inside a big fish for 3 days, and that the animals went into the Ark two by two with Noah’s family while everything and everyone else in the world drowned.
Everyone is of course entitled to believe what they wish – but I’m not one of those Christians.
As I’ve mentioned before in my columns my first degree was in science and I prefer scientific explanations for things like the creation of the universe (The Big Bang) and the amazing range of life on our beautiful planet (Evolution). But I also firmly believe that there are things that science can’t ever explain and I look to the Bible for accumulated wisdom about these.
I run a monthly ‘Bible Book Group’ that has recently been looking at Nick Page’s book ‘The Badly Behaved Bible’ which takes a fresh look at how we should deal with what we read in the Bible (and is very humorous at the same time.)
The book points out that there are inconsistencies in the Bible accounts and that there is a development over time of the writers’ understanding of God. It recognises that the various biblical books were written by human beings – it wasn’t ‘dictated by God’ – but the people who wrote the words were inspired by their ideas about God. And it was people who chose what writings would be gathered together to form the Bible. The author identifies the role of different genres of writings; the poetry, the stories, the imagery, the interpretation that sit alongside the more factual and historically based accounts.
Nick Page also doesn’t shy away from exploring some of the difficult passages of the Bible, those where God is reported to have ordered widespread slaughter – perhaps it’s the case that where the Israelites report God’s commands to kill the people whose land they were taking over that ‘God never told the Israelites to kill the Canaanites. The Israelites believed that God had told them to kill the Canaanites.’
But ultimately the most important point that the book makes is that, for Christians at least, the single most significant event that tells us what God is like is not the Bible but the life of Jesus Christ and his message of love. Because Christians believe that Jesus Christ was the incarnation of God: – ‘God is Christlike and in him there is no un-Christlikeness at all.’ So if you read something in the Bible that conflicts with what we know about Jesus – we should listen to Jesus first.
‘The Badly Behaved Bible’ is a fabulous book. For anyone interested in exploring their faith I recommend it whole-heartedly.