Several months ago, I wrote a fairly controversial post titled “Who Has the Ultimate Authority (A Biblical Look at Sola Scriptura),” which took a pretty hard look at the roles of both the Catholic church and the Bible in Christian belief. Not surprisingly, some people were less than pleased with my stance.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I LOVE the Bible. I’ve read it cover to cover multiple times, I own several copies in different translations, I went to Bible college, I can honestly say it is my favorite book… I definitely recognize the importance of the Bible and hold it in very, very high regard.
BUT when you love something, it’s important to love it for what it IS, not for what you think it is or think it should be. Which brings me to today’s post–Six things the Bible is not:
1. A How-to Guide
Have you ever heard the acronym–Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth (B.I.B.L.E.)? Super catchy and clever, but unfortunately, not really correct.
You see, the Bible is not a how-to guide, an owner’s manual or a set of instructions. There’s no table of contents where you can look up important issues like “How do I respond to an adult child caught in sin?” “How should I dress for church?” or “Should Christians participate in Halloween?” and then just flip to the page to get your answer, all laid out on the page in step-by-step format.
Instead, the Bible is more like a library that covers thousands of years and numerous genres. It includes stories, genealogies, poetry, letters, prophesy, etc. And if you want answers to your most burning questions, you’re probably going to have to read the book as a whole in order to pick up on the overall themes, not just flip to a certain verse or section to get your easy answer. Sorry.
2. A Book of Inspiring Quotes
Similarly, the Bible is not just a book of inspiring quotes that can be hand-selected in order to prove or defend a certain point or convey a message. When we cherry pick the verses we like best (and we all do this at times), we run the risk of taking the verses out of context and misconstruing the message.
Two verses I see this happening with all of the time are Ephesians 2:8-9, which state “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
These verses sure seem to make it pretty darn clear that we are saved by faith alone. However, when you read the rest of the Bible, you find several other passages (such as Romans 2:6-13; Matthew 19:16-17, 29; and James 2:14-26) which take an almost contradictory stance, making the faith vs works debate a little less cut and dry.
**Don’t miss my post on this subject: Is Faith Alone Enough?
This is just one example, of course. Christians do this with all sorts of other passages all the time.
3. The Result of a Game of Telephone
It is no secret that the words of the Bible were passed along orally for generations before being written down and that those words were written and rewritten countless times until eventually we ended up with the version we have today. That is all true.
However, just because the message went through a lot of people before it reached its final destination does not mean that it was corrupted along the way (either purposefully or otherwise). In fact, archaeologists have uncovered several fragments of the earliest manuscripts and not only do we have an impressive number of them for comparison but the Scriptures we have today are astonishingly similar to the originals.
People may get the message confused when playing a game of Telephone for fun, but this is NOT what happened with the Bible. And we have the early manuscripts to prove it.
For lots of really interesting facts and information on this topic, check out my post: Was the Bible Reliably Preserved?
This is another misconception I’ve come across a lot lately. Some people believe that if something isn’t in the Bible, it can’t possibly be true or right. Yet, that doesn’t make sense when you consider why and how the Bible was written.
The apostles who wrote the Bible never sat down to write a comprehensive guide that would address every issue. I highly doubt they sat down to draft an outline of key points before they got started or that they went back through and edited the books after the fact to make sure that they didn’t forget anything. They probably didn’t poll all of their friends to make sure they hit all the key talking points.
No, when the apostles wrote the books of the Bible, they were writing to a specific people at a specific place and time. They were addressing the issues that those people were dealing with and needed encouragement in. If something isn’t in the Bible, therefore, it isn’t necessarily because it isn’t important. It simply may not have been an issue for that particular group of people in that day.
5. About You
Lastly, it is important to realize that the Bible isn’t about you. Yes, you can learn a lot from it and get a lot out of it. Yes, there are several verses you can read and apply to your life. But the fact remains, when the apostles were writing it, they weren’t thinking about you and not every verse necessarily applies to your life. Are there sections you don’t care for? That’s okay. It’s not your book.
The Bible isn’t about you and your story; it’s about God and the story of His people. So instead of asking “What’s in it for me” or a “What can I get out of it?” ask “What can I learn about God?” and “What does God value?” instead.
For a fantastic post on this subject, check out this post by my friend Asheritah of One Thing Alone: Why Christians Should Study the Bible
As a Christian, taking the time to read your Bible regularly is incredibly important, but it’s also important to read with the right mindset. Don’t caught up in these five thinking traps. Love and appreciate the Bible for what it is, not what you think it should be.
Are you guilty of believing these misconceptions about the Bible? What other misconceptions drive you nuts?