Faith is becoming a more and more complicated area of my life as I age. When I was younger, it was simple: be good to people, don’t say “bad words,” don’t smoke/drink/do drugs, and accept Jesus as my Savior. But, now, I’m 19 and my mind is in a state of constantly searching for the truth behind things and absorbing information. I’m looking at things analytically. Why? Well, for starters, I actually care now. I care about the robustness of my faith. I care about it making sense. I care about sharing it with others. As Christians, we often look at the Great Commandment for how to live a Christian life, but, we often overlook the Great Commission. Jesus’ last words to His disciples were something to the extent of “Go and create disciples.” That’s the abridged way of saying it. Jesus wants us to make disciples! This can seem tough in the modern era of science and technology. This is why it’s important for Christians to change with the times.
I encountered a fellow Christian once whom, upon hearing me say that Christians need to change with the times, told me that we don’t. That seems ridiculous to me. We will never reach a broad, modern, new audience if we’re stuck centuries in the past, scientifically and politically speaking. The even more ridiculous thing about this is that, prior to the early 19th century, there weren’t really people like that. The Bible was not read literally until the Fundamentalist Movement came to be. And, if you read the Bible, in a historical context, you see that it’s much more meaningful to not read it literally. I read a blog post by Rob Bell recently that spoke about putting the Bible in its historical context. Let’s look at a couple of examples.
The Genesis Flood Account
What does the this story appear to be, if read literally? People pissed off God, so He killed them all.
But, take this idea into your interpretation: at the time the Bible was written, every culture had a flood story, where their god got pissed off at everyone and killed them. In the end, the god killed everyone and its wrath was appeased.
But, how does the Jewish/Christian flood story end? With a promise. God promises to never do it again.
This story is an illustration, like many OT stories, of how our God is different than other gods. Need another example?
The Genesis Creation Account
Ok, here’s where I tread in the “iconoclast” territory. I’ll flat out say that I don’t believe in a literal 6 day creation. It just doesn’t jive with my intellectual and logic prone mind. But, think about what I’m about to say here…
There are creation accounts pre-dating Genesis, that are the EXACT SAME account. Six days and all that business. But, the gods of those stories created Earth and man to trample on and feel powerful over.
Why did YHWH create Earth? To love us! This story obviously presents a different, more caring God than other creation myths. From the very beginning, God wants a relationship with us, and show mercy and compassion for us. For kicks, let’s do one more breakdown.
The Levitical Laws
We read these laws in a modern context, and think “Man, that is ridiculous and harsh.” The Law existed for a few reasons. First off, in Christian tradition, it demonstrates that we need a Savior. Second, it shows that our God is different than other gods. Thirdly, it shows God’s mercy.
Yes, Leviticus shows God’s mercy. The laws and punishments in Leviticus are MUCH less insane than contemporary laws and punishments. God was working WITHIN the culture of the time to show that He was different. The One, True God.Read any chapter of Leviticus and you’ll think, “This is crazy.” But, I’ll reckon that if you read other laws from the time, you’d think “Yeah, I pick Israel.”
But, there is another important historical context to consider here. Other gods of the time were basically humans with super powers. They were flawed characters who did what humans do. But, Leviticus shows us that YHWH is not flawed. He is perfect. He is different. He is holy.
Now, for crying out loud, people, open up your minds! Look at how the Bible was meant to impact people in its historical context! It catered to the audience of the culture it was written in! Why aren’t we doing the same? Why are we stuck in a theological box of literalism? We can disciple to and love so many more people if we just open up our mind to the true divine nature of the Bible: its human-ness.