respectfully rejecting Scripture in the name of God

What do we do when respecting the Bible story as it is, means disrespecting the God who is? Tricky concept there. Scripture is, after all, one of the primary means (if not the primary means) by which we know God—not to mention that whole transcendant, beyond knowing dimension to God.

And yet it is precisely in coming to know Scripture, and coming to know the God of our Scriptures, that questions arise about some of the stories about this God in Scripture.

For if, as we believe, Jesus is the fullest expression of God—in whom all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell (Colossians 1:19), then God is made incarnate in love—in grace and truth—made manifest in a profound passion for justice—in deep commitment to the least of these—in complete dedication to non-violent transformation, ever respectful of free will—in utter devotion to conversation and relationship with Other in respect and appreciation.

If, as we believe, God and Jesus are one, then when we read certain Bible stories—certain details in Bible stories, we have to wonder; we have to question: who is this God who manipulates circumstance to engender belief (Exodus 14:4) Who is this God who kills (Exodus 14:27)? Who is this God who doesn’t just condone but orders mass murder (1 Samuel 15:3)? Who is this God we can’t imagine being made incarnate in Jesus Christ? And how can we possibly not wrestle with such portrayals of God?

Some suggest we should leave it at that—leave it at wondering and raising questions—wrestling—respecting the mystery—conceding the unknowable—that which is and needs to remain always beyond us—not presuming to know more than we can.

I respect that.

And it is certainly always wise (necessary) to confess the presumption of rejecting Scripture, but even acknowledging Scripture as inspired by God, we need to affirm with Scripture, as with Jesus, the challenge of always honoring what the human dimension brings to the conversation. Isn’t the lesson of Scripture, sometimes—the teaching of God’s Word, sometimes, the reminder that human beings, sometimes, attribute words to God? have God say what they want God to say in order to give divine vindication to what they have done—to claim divine justification for what they want to do? Don’t we do that?

Scripture exhorts us to test the spirits (1 John 4:1) … what about the spirit of a Bible story?

And so, while respecting the mystery—while recognizing the risk—while affirming that the Bible is and always has been less a coherent, comprehensive defining of God than a collection of often competing notions of God (and while respecting and appreciating that), there are, nonetheless, details I feel the need to reject. Given our culture of violence—given all who justify violence in the name of God, there are details in Scripture I feel the need to respectfully reject.

I feel the need to affirm there are Bible stories we cannot accept as written, because to respect the stories as they are, is to disrespect God as we know God.

My priority—my calling—is to respect the God beyond the stories of God—indicated within and through them all (collectively), but never defined by them—the God always bigger and more than any attempt to understand or describe, but … but, I believe, ever consistent with as much of God as we can strive to know in Jesus.

And, as I frequently say to myself, I’d rather be wrong this way than any other! If, as indeed I may, I err, I choose to err on the side of grace … always on the side of grace.

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One thought on “respectfully rejecting Scripture in the name of God

  1. As you know Mark and I like to wrestle with each other. We look forward to it, we wrestle several times a week and sometimes on Sunday 🙂 . For Mark I think he looks at partly to measure how much he is growing and learning to perform better, and how much he is becoming like me. For me I see him grow and perform better, seeing him learning from past experiences. Seeing the confidence in him grow as he becomes closer to being my equal and one day passing me. And we both like spending time together not aways wrestling. I wonder if it is not similar with God, not that one day we will be equal but as we wrestle with these things we grow, become stronger, test our faith and spend time with God.

    We know from the New Testament that it was by design that Jesus taught in parables Mark 4:11-12. Those things were kept hidden on purpose. Even the disciples had to did not aways understand but they asked and they did get the answer to their questions. Why should we be any different. I am one of the ones that suggest we should wrestle with these things, praying for understanding and knowing that it will not always remain always beyond us, that at some point it will become clear. Maybe this is one way God test the type of soil we are.

    The risk as I see it with respectfully rejecting Scripture in the name of God is where do we stop. Who is appointed to choose what to reject? Do I get to reject things I don’t understand even if you do or no one seems agrees on. Do we remove 2 Timothy 3:16-17 as well? If we start rejecting Scripture we don’t like or because it was misused isn’t that not as bad as someone that uses scripture to have God say what they want God to say in order to give divine vindication to what they have done—to claim divine justification for what they want to do? Instead of rejecting Scripture because someone misused it why not point out that it was misused and grow/learn from it.

    In the old testament God is declared to be a “compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness,” (Exodus 34:6; Numbers 14:18; Deuteronomy 4:31; Nehemiah 9:17; Psalm 86:5, 15; 108:4; 145:8; Joel 2:13). He was gracious in the old and new Testaments and he still is. But the passage states that he was slow to anger not that he never was angry and with Jonah we know that forgiveness was there for the asking. But even the Ninevites will be present for a punishment of others in time Matthew 12:38-41 and Luke 11:29-32. God is not just Grace.

    I agree that God always bigger and more than any attempt to understand or describe and should be. For our role is not to become equal to God, our role is not to punish others but to reflect God’s love as Jesus did. Only God has the right and the role to judge and pass judgement. I believe He has judged and punshied people before and He will again.

    The bigger question for me is what is expected/required of me to Love as Jesus loved? Complete dedication to non-violent transformation – except for the time he braded a whip. In utter devotion to conversation and relationship with Others – exept when his mother and sisters came to see him and his mother and sister where those that did Gods will. Explain to my wife why I did not come home for a sometime without notice, or go to a funeral because I was called to go somewhere else. Leaving my job to go where? Shaking the dust off your feet in a place where you are not accepted. Eating and drinking with those that good church people don’t hang out with. Going to church every Sunday even when you dont agree with the preaching :). Fasting. Praying for hours at a time. Selling all that I have and giving it to the poor. Not having any possions and no home. As I go into the world sharing Gods love with all that I meet.

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