Archive for May, 2012

Why Christians Love the Bible (part 4)

by   |  05.06.12  |  Uncategorized

This post concludes the series on why we love the Bible, even when we also struggle with it. Thank you for reading and thinking along with me.

     Why, then, do Christians love the Bible?  In prior posts in this series, we considered some reasons for not loving it, perhaps even for rejecting it.  Some of those reasons are more interesting or challenging than others.  How one answers them does not change the fact that many reasonable, thoughtful, even kind and gracious people love the Bible and are willing to sacrifice comfort, success, and even their own lives to carry out their understandings of its basic message.  Why?

            The answers probably vary with the lover.  For some, the sheer literary artistry of the book dazzles and fascinates.  Stories and poems, proverbs and songs, laments and thanksgivings all grace the pages of the Good Book.  Who can easily forget David and Bathsheba or Daniel in the lion’s den or Mary Magdalene at the tomb?  The Bible’s ability to surface the voices of the powerless, even when the authors themselves bore some bit of power as they sometimes did, compels admiration.  Anybody with any literary sensibility at all can see that.

            But there is something more to the love than just artistic appreciation, though that is real and noteworthy.  The larger point is that we love the Bible because it talks about the human love for God, our deep longing not to be alone, and our profound awareness that we are not and cannot be.  It is a book of hope, which one must carefully distinguish from wishful thinking.  Far too gritty and realistic a book to offer false hopes or easy solutions to complex problems – unlike some of its defenders and alleged fans – the Bible nevertheless assumes the highest possible things about the nature and destiny of the human race.  Made in God’s image, accountable, redeemable, resurrect-able, capable of great good as well as great evil, human beings appear in Scripture in ways that are both honest and hope-filled.  Not an easy trick to pull off, for authors of books or any of the rest of us.

            The greatest interpreters of the Bible, whether technical scholars or preachers or artists, have understood the coherence of its ideas about human beings.  Thus Handel ends his great oratorio “Messiah,” the libretto of which consists entirely of biblical passages, with the great hymn of the angels in Revelation: “Worthy is the lamb who was slain….”  And then the Amen.  Death and pain do not get the last word; there is a resurrection in every graveyard.  Or think of the joyous opening of Haydn’s “Creation” with the word “Light” sung again and again in joy.  Darkness has its place – we need it in some ways – but it does not win in the end.  Or more recently Bernstein’s “Chichester Psalms” with the glorious resolution of all the storm and stress in Hinneh mah tov umana’im shevet achim gam yachad (“How good and how pleasant it is when brethren dwell together in unity”).  Humans can live together and that still unrealized possibility is worth aspiring toward.  There is something in the Bible, then, that speaks to the full resolution and restoration of all things.  Peace.  Wholeness.  Shalom.  And that is why we love the Bible.  We are not naïve about its challenges.  Not at all.  But we know that inside its riddles, past its dark paths and hidden traps lie a deeper truth.  That truth is that God is making all things new.  Who couldn’t love that?