Thursday, July 18, 2013

Teaching About the Bible, Not Just Its Content

I've been thinking about writing more about apologetics, maybe book length.  One major topic, though, I'm thinking of working on is that of the Bible itself.  I'd like to see more education in churches about the Bible.  Not just what's in the Bible but its nature, origins and prehistory, ancient context, etc.  That is, we should have more that is not just about the content of the Bible but the Bible itself.  There are many, many myths and misconstruals floating around about the Bible among more moderate to conservate Christians, Evangelicals, and also Fundamentalists.  And I don't mean "secular" or "liberal" myths either - I mean myths perpetuated largely by traditional, orthodox-leaning Christians.  (To give a couple examples: the idea that every command in the Bible is a timeless moral imperative and the Bible is basically a life handbook; the idea that there cannot be any reasonable doubt about the exact text or meaning of a passage; the idea that absolutely everything ought to be taken as completely literally and describing exact historical, scientific reality and conforming to, say, modern scientific-writing genre conventions, etc.)

The trouble is that many take these myths to be integral to the Christian view of the Bible and to the faith as a whole and when these bubbles get popped, their world comes crashing down and they must either remake their views of the Bible or reject the faith entirely.  I have personally known several people who left the faith because of these myths when they could not handle their dismantlement.  And these were very intelligent people; they were simply dealing with the destruction of what they had believed and likely taught to believe for most of their time as Christians.

Now, most good Evangelical biblical scholars will reject most of these myths, and often explicitly, but that just doesn't often make its way down into the church pews.  Instead, most people's first brush with thinking about the Bible itself outside of these myths and outside well-worn cliches comes in the form of, say, the "facts" presented in the Da Vinci Code or some disturbing bit of modern biblical scholarship.  It's all very sad and, in my mind, completely unnecessary - there are people out there who are having serious doubts about the Bible and hence their faith precisely because of what we aren't (and, sadly, sometimes what we are) teaching them.

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