Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Bible Can't Save Us

    The Bible cannot save me.
    The Bible can't save anyone.
    Certainly the Bible is profitable for doctrine once understood in its context. But the Bible cannot save us.
    The Bible did not redeem me. The Bible is not the Word in the Beginning.
    The Bible cannot love me, or you, or anyone.
    The Bible cannot whisper the voice of God. Certainly God can whisper through the Bible, but the Bible is an object. A holy, inspired collection of stories, both poetic and narrative, yes, but it's still an object.
    The Bible is not God. We were created by a Trinity, not a Quarterinity (which isn't even a word, but you get the point).
    And so, the Bible cannot save us.
    I've been wanting to pen this post for a while, but I hesitated because people will judge me I know I'm a bad Christian could anyone relate?
    But a few days ago a lovely post went up at Sheloves Magazine from a writer named Heather, explaining that she stopped reading the Bible because reading it shredded her heart every time.
    Which is basically my story, too. Tears pricked my eyes when I read Heather's words because I thought that, just maybe, I felt God whisper to me through a blog post.
    I've written a bit before about my struggles with scrupulosity.
    So when I hear the typical evangelical encouragement to memorize Scripture, I cringe, because they don't know how much I've done that. How much I chanted verse and prayers in my head whenever I faced temptation, repeating them until I got them worded exactly right. Exactly.
    When I hear a well-meaning pastor's encouragement to get up early each morning and read the Bible, I feel cold. Because they don't know about the times I spent an hour meticulously reading every. word. of a chapter, making sure I knew every freaking definition, making sure I gleaned meaning from even the most tedious verses (hence why I hated Ezekiel: and he took his rod and measured, and the temple was this many cubits by this many cubits...).
    These compulsions were so ingrained in me that, even when I ignored God in all other aspects of life in high school, I continued my chants and prayers.
    And naturally, when I finally decided I wanted God again, I started reading the Bible with renew purpose.
    Every. Day. Making sure I underlined and reread anything I wasn't getting meaning from. I took special care on the days before college exams, so God would bless me on the test and not punish me for putting biology/chemistry first.
    I was scared, I think. I wanted to Do The Right Thing, and the Right Thing was a formula that fit everyone.
Geez this image triggers anxiety.
    But formulas and feelings only take you so far. When the stress and anxiety began piling on junior year of college, and when the depression collapsed senior year, my Bible reading collapsed into a formula devoid of meaning.
    I kept reading, determined to affirm I was still following a God I doubted and couldn't hear from, so people couldn't accuse me of being depressed because I'd fallen away from God (for those who don't speak Christianese, "falling away" describes the unintentional process of prioritizing the secular over God until we no longer care about Him).
    Heck, even when I started recovery and my church attendance plummeted whilst I began re-examining every belief, I still read daily. No longer a chapter, however. I just read a story of Jesus' ministry.
    I was disappointed that nothing changed. I was still doing it because I had to. Bible devotionals incited rage or gave me panic attacks.
    When I returned from the Mideast, I have to admit, my daily Bible readings went the way of the dodo bird.
    Strangely, not reading my Bible every day, I felt closer to God.
    I want to love the Bible.
    I don't think I do.
    I love what the Bible reveals - a God who loves us, who told us to love Him and others as the greatest commandment. A God who came to earth to live among us, a God who would rather die Himself than kill us. A God who defeated death, a God who promises that life ought not be how it is, who promises that He is alive and restoration will occur.
    But I'm horrendously confused by the Old Testament stories of God-approved genocide, and I'm ripped apart inside when I read of a lake of fire. I'm repulsed by the use of Bible verse to bash the victimized while we conveniently ignore Matthew 7:1.
    I know there are books dealing with these messes. Peter Enns just released a book on it. Maybe I'll do some reading and come away with a different perspective, ready to read the Bible again.
    Heather said she just wasn't ready to read the Bible yet. I guess you could say that's where I am, too.
    It'd be nice to wake up each morning and treasure the Bible. But I'm not there yet, and I'm not sure when or if I will be.
    I guess it's good then, that the Bible doesn't save us; God does.



  1. It's pretty easy to turn the Bible into an idol. I used to be very focused on doing everything perfectly, which included daily Bible devotions. If I skipped a day, I was sure God would be hurt and/or angry. I was obsessed with doing everything exactly right. I came from a fundamentalist background and felt like I had to force myself to believe everything in the Bible was historically accurate as well. That cognitive dissonance was painful and very damaging to my faith. I took a long break from Christianity and it really helped. I think I have a healthier view of the Bible now. The Bible is a tool that can help us understand God, but the Word is Jesus. I put my faith in Jesus, not the Bible.

  2. I had this thought yesterday about the Bible: It's not whether I believe the Bible is (all) true or not but whether it can speak truth.

    The latter I believe can be possible, but I also know (as well as yourself from the things you've written) that many things can speak truth. Is that enough to warrant the Bible useless or unnecessary? Probably not. But I feel less of a need to be a slave to the Bible.

    I know the danger in that is coming to believe this could apply to the belief system as a whole and to me it's just felt like another thing to not be a slave to. I do make a distinction between faith and a system of belief. They probably aren't incompatible, but where I'm at in life they definitely seem that way.

    As always, thanks for your thoughts Kelley!

  3. Yes! Exactly. It's amazing how much of a difference faith in Jesus over the Bible makes.

  4. So interesting! I love God's Word (although I get ya on Ezekiel). And with a gift of teaching, I often wonder if I have an extra dose of love for it too. On the flip side, I have wondered if it is possible to make the Bible, an object as you say, an idol. Thank you for being honest. Our faiths can all look so different, can't they? Funny you mentioned Enns' new book because I just got it and thought about recommending it here. Haven't read it yet though.

  5. Peter Enns' lates book is hilarious! And it is very helpful. Thank you, for sharing this very personal post. I hope you are able to read the bible more profitably soon.

  6. I read it about two months ago - it is pretty great!
    And I hope I can too, friend.