I confess. I tricked you with the title of this article. There is nothing wrong with our Bible. There is, however, a whole lot of broken with how we read our Bible. Frankly, we need to rescue our Bible back from the fundamentalism that has framed the conversation about the truth of Christianity and the Scriptures for far too long.
For example, Henry M. Morris, the “father of modern creation science” once said, “If the Bible can’t be trusted on scientific and historical matters, then it can’t be trusted on matters of salvation and spirituality.” I heard this kind of message countless times growing up in my fundamentalist church. They say that if you cannot take every verse as being literalistically true, you do not have any foundation for believing Jesus Christ for your salvation. We don’t hold this standard of trust for any other source of truth. We don’t throw out our encyclopedia if we find an error in it. Such a standard would mean that if your parents ever told you one thing wrong, you couldn’t trust them ever again.
The word fundamentalist evokes images of a dwindling group of old men in suits clutching their KJV Bibles. However a new brand of neo-fundamentalism is alive and thriving today, still seeking to hijack our Bible and turn it into some kind of textbook for their own peculiar brand of Christianity.
The problem with such a view is that the Bible is not the foundation for our faith, Jesus Christ is. I do not believe in Jesus because I trust the Bible. I trust the Bible because I believe in Jesus.
My faith in God does not stand or fall on some difficult verses in the Old Testament. I’m reminded of the Pharisees at the time of Christ. They were the most qualified, in their knowledge of the Scriptures, for the coming Messiah – yet they missed the whole point of the Scriptures, Jesus Himself. The crowning pinnacle of the unveiling of God to mankind is in the person of Jesus Christ. He is the perfect revelation of God’s nature, “the express image of his person” (Hebrews 1:3). Jesus is the author of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). Jesus is our foundation (I Corinthians 3:11), and the chief cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20). Jesus is the Word of God (John 1:1), the perfect communication of God to mankind. The fundamentalists have elevated the Scriptures above Jesus Christ in an idolatrous Trinity of God the Father, Son and Holy Bible.
Now, as an Evangelical Christian, I hold to the divine ‘God-breathed’ inspiration of the Scriptures and that they are the supreme authority for faith and practice. However fundamentalism has bent this high view of scripture to include an emphasis on verbal inspiration in which the technical inerrancy of every word in the Bible is necessary for being truly Christian. This treats the Bible as a technical history and theology textbook and not as what it truly is, the unfolding story of God unveiled in a divine collection of historical narrative, poetry, law, visions, dreams and personal letters.
Instead, I prefer Roger Olson’s description of the value of Scripture; “The Bible never fails in its main purpose which is to identify God for us, to communicate his love and his will to us, and to lead us into salvation and a right relationship with our Creator, Savior and Lord.” In other words the Bible is inerrant and perfect with respect to purpose. To insist on a fundamentalist approach to the Bible is the same as attempting to study the poems of Siegfried Sassoon to understand the history of World War I. Where Sassoon’s poem Counter-Attack fails as a historical text it most certainly succeeds in revealing a confrontational and haunting glimpse into the horrors of war.
Not only is the Bible inspired, it is inspiring. It is not a collection of truths waiting to be systematised and assented to. Where the Bible is not accurate in every minute detail of history and scientific fact, it is perfect in its purpose as the story of God’s dealing with mankind through history that invites us into an encounter with that very same God.