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Blogging the Bible

Christianity Today interviewed David Plotz, an agnostic Jew who began reading the Bible several chapters at a time and blogging about it as he went.  It happens that I read some of the posts as he wrote them, and found them amusing (I think he was trying for “amusing,” but I’m not sure).  For instance, he wants to know why we never preach about some of the passages in Genesis and Joshua where genocide is described.  So, do you think I would agree with him?

Surprisingly, I agreed with many of his summaries.  Here’s some of what he said.

I expected the Old Testament to be boring, and it turned out to be much, much more fascinating. I was mostly struck by the way stories that tended to be peaceful and most forgiving make it into popular culture. There’s more ambiguity and unpleasantness [in Bible stories] that haven’t seeped into popular culture.

He’s right about the unpleasantness.  I taught through Genesis and have studied Judges in depth.  Some of the stories are quiet shocking.  Even in what they imply about God.

He also gives some good advice:

When you read it you just dip into it, the language is tricky. These stories don’t follow logically. But then when you start to get into the rhythm, it becomes much, much easier to read. This is sort of my exhortation to people who want to read the Bible: It starts out quite hard and then it gets significantly easier once you’ve you know, been doing it for a few chapters or a few days.

Right.  We tend to read a few verses here and there, and skip the context.  So we wind up moralizing the text, rather than understanding what the author wanted to say to us.

Here’s a final critique:

I’ve heard a lot of sermons, and even at evangelical churches, I feel like there’s never any kind of attempt to critique the Bible. It’s like it’s always an attempt to find a really good way to spin it.

Wow, that’s a strong statement.  Do you agree with him?  If he’s wrong, why?  If he’s right, what should we do differently?  How do you read the Bible?  What do you do with rape and genocide in Genesis?

  1. March 5, 2009 at 10:29 am

    It’s difficult for me to look at the Bible as something to critique since it’s God’s revealed word. With difficult passages anywhere in the Bible, whether rape and genocide in Genesis, or separating the wheat from the chaff in the NT, I have to trust in God’s perfect nature, holy and just. My knowledge is so limited compared to God, I can’t possibly see all that God has planned in every action and event that takes place. I still feel discomfort when reading those passages, but I am comforted in God’s power and love.

  2. March 5, 2009 at 10:57 am

    I agree with Chris. How you read the Bible says something about what you believe about God. If God is God, then critiquing His word is, well, unthinkable. But if I am reading the Bible to explore whether or not God is in fact God, then I suppose I am capable of any foolishness in my interpretation of it. Because without the Spirit’s guidance, it’s all gibberish anyway.

  3. jlemke
    March 5, 2009 at 4:36 pm

    Chris and Blake, I agree with both of you. I am not comfortable “critiquing” the Bible. On the other hand, have we gone too far in the other direction? I never hear any messages on the more difficult portions, so in that sense I agree with Plotz. Then, when confronted with those passages, I find that people don’t understand them or what the author was trying to communicate.

    So I would like to address those passages without critiquing them, but simply accepting that they are trying to communicate some truth from God. And let’s find what that truth is.

  1. March 5, 2009 at 3:16 pm

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