“While Christians tend to turn to Scripture to end a conversation, Jews turn to Scripture to start a conversation.”
-Rachel Held Evans, Inspired
Back in 2019, the Bible was in the process of being removed from its pedestal, where it stood untouched for decades in my life. I didn’t dare share my secret with anyone- there was a dusty Bible sitting on my bookshelf, proof of my growing disinterest and mounting questions surrounding this ancient text.
At the time, I didn’t have the language to fully articulate what was happening between me and the Bible. It had felt like a slow, organic process of following my curiosity.
While working on my bachelor’s degree at a small Christian college, I became familiar with all the myriad of ways scholars and people and churches throughout history understood the Bible, this supposed infallible and inerrant text.
During college was also when I started asking the commonly held questions: How did we get the Bible we have now? How was it passed down through the centuries? What about the errors and the contradictions throughout its pages? Was the Bible a reliable source of information when it came to knowing about God’s character? Why so many perspectives and debates over a text I thought was supposed to be straightforward?
Through personal study and academic rigor, I came to, what I thought to be, satisfying explanations. And furthermore, I didn’t have a context for moving through life outside of believing the Bible to be the authoritative Word of God.
If I showed any skepticism, where then would I turn for wisdom, guidance, and truth?
My fervor and fascination to understand the Bible and ultimately, if I’m honest, to feel closer to God, kept me immersed in enriching commentaries and reading scripture daily throughout most of my 20s and early 30s.
All throughout this time though I noticed people utilizing their “correct” views of the Bible to exclude and dehumanize others, to perpetuate systems of power, patriarchy, and white supremacy (although I didn’t have language for these issues yet!).
How long could I keep turning a blind eye from the ways folks twisted the Bible to manipulate and spread fear?
Eventually, in my mid-thirties, while serving overseas as a missionary with my husband (not the best timing!), I too had to come to terms with my own damaging, tunnel vision perspective.
My thick evangelical, white girl, middle-class Christian lenses caused me to read the Bible as a way to know who was “in” and “out,” helped me to decipher God’s plan for my life, and determine “right” from “wrong.”
Perhaps, it wasn’t too late to try on a new pair of glasses?
I felt extremely guilty about the possibility of veering away from the views that were handed to me from my particular stream of Christianity.
But it was becoming increasingly difficult for me to continue to believe the Bible had cornered the market on God’s voice to humanity when it was breeding all kinds of violence, division, and pain.
My uneasiness regarding the Bible- how it was being applied and all the varying viewpoints- caused me to lend an ear towards people on the fringes; how did the oppressed and marginalized interpret the words of Jesus?
I worked through challenging resources from people I’d never heard of before. I listened to the wisdom of those whom I formerly perceived as being “off limits” for me as an evangelical Christian- those scholars and theologians who honored the Bible as a sacred book and yet weren’t afraid to admit it was written by the hands of fallible humans on a journey to understand God.
Amidst all my discoveries, I still wondered though, “What will happen if I finally admit I don’t think the Bible is the inspired and inerrant Word of God? Will I have to abandon my desire to follow the loving way of Jesus? What will be my foundation then?”
I was nervous to venture onward, but I had to find out what would happen if I did.
What unfolded next both shocked and relieved me.
Gradually, the Bible slipped between stacks of other compelling books. It wasn’t my go-to morning ritual anymore. I noticed how interested I became in other experiences of the Divine from people outside of my faith tradition. Never in my life had I entertained the ideas and traditions of Buddhism, Sufism, or Indigenous people. Never had I listened to the voices of my friends in the LGBTQ community, feminist spirituality, the mystics, or progressive circles. Never had I considered the trees could speak or “nature to be the first Bible,” as Richard Rohr so often reminds me.
My Bible slowly wandered off center stage and all the while my capacity to love the whole world, my neighbors, and the multitudes of religious traditions, and perspectives grew immensely.
The Bible and I didn’t break up, but we did set up some much-needed boundaries for our relationship. It had become something it was never meant to be in my life- an idol of sorts. I worshiped it as the final voice on all matters of life, the only true revelation of God. It contained the exact words and life of Jesus.
Although there were (and are!) many teachers, tools, and materials I encountered in rethinking my relationship to the Bible (I will list a few below), a passage from Rob Bell’s book, What is the Bible?, stands out to me,
“You start with the human. You ask those questions, you enter there, you direct your energies to understanding why these people wrote these books. Because whatever divine you find in it, you find the divine through and in the human, not around it.”
Bell’s instruction lends me to imagine that maybe the so-called canon of scripture isn’t closed after all.
Perhaps this holy text is still being written because we humans are still following our curiosity, still encountering and trying to explain this Divine Mystery in countless abstract and colorful ways.
How could this vast and all-pervasive Mystery, this ever-expanding Love, be enclosed and expressed within only hundreds of pages of an ancient text or even within the life of just one person such as Jesus?
Now, I was free to notice and name divine inspiration everywhere.
Spirit-filled scripture flowed through frail skin and ruptured souls- trickling out of places and people I had previously failed to acknowledge, or had ignored, or worse- demonized. Goodness, grace, and truth came in all sorts of packages and I slowly and carefully began to open each one.
There were fading hints and flaming arrows all around me, beckoning me to enter into the unraveling Story.
My Bible is still a bit dusty, but it remains close to my heart and sits alongside my collection of poetry books. This simple act is a symbol helping me to remember to remain humble and open in my perceptions of the Bible, because like poetry, it is…
speaks in flashy riddles and rhyme,
connects me with my hidden longings,
eloquently expresses the collective human experience,
awakens my imagination,
activates my wonder and empathy through vivid metaphors and powerful stories,
and invites me to engage with it creatively.
I don’t pressure myself to pick it up because I think this whole existence of being human is one long ongoing conversation with Mystery itself. Indeed, the Bible has become more living and active than I ever believed it could be.
There are of course too many resources to recommend here on this post. These are but a sampling. Feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more!