Ten Things my Evangelical Pastors Didn’t Tell Me About the Bible

I grew up fundy, I’ve had to face it. I’ve tried to put all kinds of spins on it, conservative, mainline traditional, but facts are facts, and although I didn’t see it,
and still don’t remember my parents or grandparents as cruel, or hateful in any  way, that’s what it was.

People, Man, Blur, Male, Holy, Bible, Book, Outdoor

From the time I was born until the age of fourteen, my dad was a Church of Christ preacher. I never experienced any kind of racism, or bigotry, toward

anyone who came into the congregations where he preached, or in our home. Everyone was welcome, no matter their heritage,  status, “orientation”

or “lifestyle” ( I use these terms in quotes, because this is the language that was used to describe the “others”) they were always treated with love and

respect and we tried to help everyone we could.

That being said, there was a fair bit of proselytizing, which only makes sense in the circumstances, but never any condemnation from them toward

anyone that I witnessed,. Regardless of their beliefs. Maybe this is why I was able to hide from my own concerns for so long. There was never any

doubt that they believed whole-heartedly that without a meaningful conversion experience to Christ, everyone was lost and going to a literal, real hell.

I know what some of you are thinking, what kind of monsters were they? But, you likely have had some beliefs in your life that you were forced to

reconsider, and I fully believe, had they lived long enough, this would have been one for them. My dad admitted at the end of his life that I had

convinced him that hell definitely wasn’t what he’d thought. But, that’s a story for another time.

About the time I turned fourteen, my dad’s theology changed, but not necessarily for the better. We dived headlong out of the mega conservative,

no instrumental music in worship, COC, into the hotbed of the Charismatic Renewal in 1985. Rock bands, and tambourines, if you couldn’t speak

in tongues, you might not be saved, kind of places. The Sunday services would run for hours!

From there, I ran through the gamut of “non-denominational” churches, but everywhere I went, a certain arrogant ignorance pervaded the leadership.  

Most of them had only a rudimentary knowledge of scripture. Which, for a COC kid was appalling, after all, we basically treated the Bible as a

defacto minister of God. It was inerrant, and perfect in every way, after all, it was just up to us to study it hard enough to suss out the answers.

There’s a certain level of death to intellectual curiosity that comes with accepting that the Bible, is, in your mind, inerrant. Although this is a relatively

new idea, in the scheme of things, it has been pervasive through most of American Evangelical Christianity for the past century or so. Even in

places where it wasn’t considered quite as literal and concrete as I’d been taught as a child (6 literal days of creation, and so on) those ideas

were almost never expressed from the pulpit. There was a tacit understanding that the book was the book, and whatever it said, and whoever

was in charge agreed to interpret is as meaning, stood.

So, what’s so wrong with that? Well, I don’t know all of the answers to this question, but here are ten things I picked up on later in life that led

to a whole bunch of questions that ended up with me thinking there is no hell, and gay people are okay with Jesus and maybe a lot of the other

rules we made for ourselves didn’t make a whole lot of sense, and the whole thing was really about being good to people in the first place.

Here they are, the ten things they never told me.

  1. The best description of God in the Bible is a metaphor.
    Fantasy, Light, Mood, Sky, Beautiful, Fairytale, Dream

    That’s right. We’ve fought wars over these poetic understandings, though. So, they must be able to be understood and taken literally, right? See, the idea is this, God is so big (and if there is a single intelligence behind the universe, it would have to be) that we simply cannot understand, and so, we have to resort to metaphorical language to compare God to things we can know. God is ineffable in essence. But, if this is true, why did I see so much anger for people who insisted on seeing the feminine in the divine, or had another name for God?

  1. God is not a man.
    Hands, Globe, Earth, Protection, Planet, World, Global

    At best, the divine is a blend of genders. It says so right in the first two chapters, but we overlook that and default to father, although he’s also described as animals, a woman, forces of nature, and even inanimate objects. As science begins to unfold what it means for humans to have gender, they are discovering that even on a measurable level, there is very little evidence for the strict binary definitions we’ve applied until very recently. To me, this binary understanding has been used primarily to hold half of the population in check. Yes, women, you’ve been robbed of your rightful place, because some guys decided that some other guys, who wrote all this stuff down, said guys were put in charge by the head guy himself, God, and it’s not true.

  1. There’s very little history, outside of the Bible itself, to back up much of what is in it.
    Noah'S Ark, Saint-Etienne-Du-Mont, Paris, Stained Glass

    Sorry, whatever they told you at Bible college, might need to be reconfirmed, as awful as it sounds a whole lot of lies have been told to prop up doctrine. I don’t know a lot about this. It is true there is as much evidence for the existence of some of the personalities in the Bible as for other historical figures, but much of what is told within its pages cannot be confirmed through other historical records.

  1. Almost NONE of the source texts come from “original” languages.

    In many evangelical circles there is this belief that if you get to the "original" language of the Bible you can make more sense of it. In some cases this is true. It's been mistranslated and misinterpreted. In other places, additional words have simply been made up to make it make what the translator thought was good sense. So, what is the truth

    The OT was rewritten into other languages, and then translated back into Hebrew. The Greek that the NT scrolls were written in was not the spoken language of the people who wrote it. Many of them spoke Aramaic, it's believed. Linguistically speaking it’s a stew, and that’s before you even get to the oral tradition being handed down for generations before many of the books were written, or the translation challenges of converting mostly dead languages into somewhat modern English equivalents.

  1. There's more than one "canon" of the "Holy Bible

    To say that the “canon” (group of books included in the Bible) of scripture is inspired (directly selected by the Holy Spirit) is a confusing, and misleading statement. There have been many. Hell, there are still many groups of books claiming the title of Bible. Right now there is the 66 book canon of the mainline protestant church, the 73 books of the Catholic Bible, which by the way, has the claim of being older than the protestant, just by history and logic. And the Eastern Orthodox canon contains 81 books, and is said to be the oldest canon in church history. So, which one was inspired? Even these canons are disputed.

  1. Not all of the Biblical authors are necessarily who I was taught they were.

    Beautiful, Woman, Headscarf, Arabic, Veiled, Islam
    For example, Paul seems to have penned the lion’s share of the New Testament. But, some of what has his name on it, most scholars believe, may have been penned by one of his own disciples, using his name to gain authority. As to the ancient texts, some of them have never had an author attributed to them.

  1. Not everything in the Bible is scientifically accurate.

    Strange Scientist Free Photo
    You're probably saying, wow, no kidding? (sarcastically) It is obvious that there are gaps in the understanding of the writers, and some of their observations are plain illogical. But, and here's the thing, we had a 1954 set of World Book encyclopedias as a kid and I wouldn't want to use that as a text book in a modern science class either. So much of the understanding has changed. Honestly, this point only matters if you're expecting the Bible to be completely infallible.

    Surprisingly, however, the same pattern claimed as the biological order of ascendance in evolution by Darwin, is the same order used in the Creation Myth in Genesis. I remember a serious debate in our house when my brother found out that whales are not fish and my father attempted to defend the idea that the whale Jonah was “literally” swallowed by, was both a whale and a great fish, as the Bible states. To me, most of these are simply errors in understanding from the author’s point of view. After all, most people still thought of the world as flat, although the Bible describes it as round. But, I don’t need the Bible to be scientifically accurate in every point. Most historical philosophical texts have similar inaccuracies.

  1. The idea that the Bible is perfect is new

    Yep, it started less than a hundred years ago, which is funny. You'd think the earliest followers of this book would have been turned onto the fact that it was perfect, unless, maybe, it's not.
    I was never told this. I doubt my father ever knew it. Different schools of theological understanding tend to insulate themselves to preserve their way of thinking. You’ll find that two Biblical scholars, both trained to similar levels of education, may have completely different understandings of what the book means on many points and often have never even been confronted with opposing views. The other interesting thing is this, I’ve rarely met a Bible professor who found the Bible to be as black and white as it was nearly always presented from the pulpits I heard it taught from.

  1. There are even problems with the doctrine of "Divine Inspiration"

    Bible, Book, Light Bulb, Light, Enlightenment
    The idea of the divine inspiration of the Biblical writers doesn’t gel with the idea of free will. Either God creates automatons, even temporarily, to act as mediums ( a practice strictly forbidden in scripture) to transcribe the history and thoughts of God, or men do it willingly. If the former, then what the hell? And was that same possession present when all translation, interpretation, and transcription was done? If not, how would you assume that all of these men (they’re always all considered men) get it all perfectly right, without inserting a single opinion. But, then, we’re given a glimpse into this by Paul, at least once when he tells us straight up this is my opinion, not God speaking.

  1. The Bible’s inerrancy is not only unprovable, but it simply doesn’t matter.
    Stuck in the Wall Free Photo

    Here’s why. After being in church, literally, since the third day of my life, I’ve come to this conclusion, it does not matter one bit if the Bible is perfect or not. Well, of course it does, some will say, otherwise, we might be living a lie. Well, here’s the thing, you might anyway, even if it’s perfect. Why? Imagine this.

There is an atomic bomb in your front yard. Unless you defuse it, at some point in the future, no one knows exactly when, it will take you and everyone you know out. Never fear! Instructions for defusing this bomb have been delivered. But, here’s the thing. They were written by someone who never saw this bomb. Two thousand years ago. With their untechnological minds. In a foreign language they didn’t speak. That’s not all. Then it was translated from these ancient texts, then transcribed many times, and finally, it was made into an “interpretation” of the original text. But, if you are not precise in every single detail of your defusal process, BOOM!

So, you call in the experts. They can help, right? They’ve devoted their entire lives to studying these instructions and teaching these instructions. They arrive and immediately begin to argue. Why? Because they all have a different idea of how the bomb should be defused and all of them show you in the instructions how their way is right. One says you open the bomb first, then pray, then defuse. Another says, no, pray only, God will defuse the bomb. Another says, dunk the bomb in water, pray, then defuse. And they all have followers who espouse their method. Because, if you don’t get this right, they’re all doomed.

Finally, they resort, not to the original texts, but to commentaries based on other’s understanding of the texts, to solve their disagreements, but this just leads to more disagreements. What do you do? The instructions are perfect, you know that. But, now you’ve got three different versions of them, and tons of peripheral information explaining them and the more you try to make it make sense, the less it does.

That’s why it simply does not matter if the Bible is perfect, infallible, or inerrant. Because, even if it were, we cannot come to a common understanding of what it means.

So, what is the Bible? To me, it’s simply a journal. It’s a journal of men and women who dedicated their entire existence to unravelling the God puzzle, understanding who the creator is, and what our relationship to the divine should be. It records their mistakes, their broken ideas, their imperfect observations, and some of the results. It encourages us to good things, and where it does, we should follow it. Then it has some horrible advice, which is proven wrong. Where this is true, we should learn from it.

But, how do you make peace with all of this? Simple. I’ve come to understand that the bomb (hell) does not exist. There is no lake of eternal fire. God doesn’t torture people eternally for deeds committed on a finite time line. In fact, the Bible doesn’t even say that. But, that’s a story for another time.


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