Bible-phobia, entirely justified

Thomas Cook of Philadelphia believes that the reading of Bible verses in an elementary school classroom could “proselytize” the students to a particular religious viewpoint, according to the Associated Press. Cook is principal at a school where parents were invited to come in for a session to celebrate their children. One mom wanted to read from the Bible as part of her presentation.

According to a Dallas TV station, Plano mom Debbie Lutz agrees; in her case the mere presence of free Bibles on an unmanned table offended her. “Religion should be out of schools,” she opined.

One Dallas Morning News reader considers the presence of a Ten Commandments tablet on the lawn of the Oklahoma capitol to be a violation of the First Amendment ban on establishing a state church.

Finally, I offer this explanation from an article that noted the trend of stylish boutique hotels that offer condoms or other adult products to patrons, but are deleting the free Bibles from the night stands. “Society evolves.”

There is a lot of confusion out there about the relationship between the presence of the Bible and the establishment of a particular religion. I hear a lot of fear also. They act as though the Bible is powerful, and threatening. It’s an accurate assumption. The Bible is powerful and it does threaten our own view of reality. Depending on where a person stands, that’s good news or really bad news for these reasons:

The Bible, as the Word of God and the words of God, has power to change lives. If children or their teachers or their parents hear the Word of God, they may indeed be converted?not to a religion but to a right relationship with the God who made them. Most of us think we’re in control, although we can’t really brag about how that whole thing is working out. Still, we hate to give up the delusion.

Those who have been transformed (proselytized?) by the gospel contained in Scripture make us feel judged. They have changed their minds about the things their neighbors still love. It’s more comfortable, for now, to not know how we’re doing.

The Scriptures are divisive. Yes they are. Consider the narrow and wide gates, the fruit of the Spirit and the works of the flesh, life or death, blessing or cursing, and so on. Everything is not the same in essence or even significance any more. God has distinguished between things. Of course the most divisive teaching in the Bible is that Jesus is the only way to God, the only way to Heaven, the only way to avoid Hell. These definite, stark either/or statements are offensive to the way we men naturally think?and they’re in the Bible.

The Bible is definite, certain about many things that discomfit us. No, we don’t understand it all but some things, the Ten Commandments come to mind, are pretty easy to grasp. But some fear that certainty and blame it for everything from the Iraq war to the murder of George Tiller. They have to make it sound bad because the unmistakable things the Bible says can make them feel bad, for good reasons.

Christian moderates find themselves uncomfortable with the Bible for most of the same reasons. Inerrancy is called by some Baptists a lower view of inspiration because it holds the Bible to a higher standard than a “mere book” composed by fallible men can ever meet. Others suggest that the doctrine of inerrancy does more harm than good. For still others who yet bear the name “Baptist,” the teaching of the exclusivity of Christ is hate speech toward unbelieving Jews or Moslems. They prefer to discuss things with lost people rather than ever share the gospel. Our moderate friends also believe that plain biblical morality, mercy, and justice ties us too closely to the Republican Party. They instead emphasize the “complexity” of moral questions.

Can some of the brethren really believe that a belief in inerrancy has caused some of our churches to fail in evangelism and decline generally? That belief must be based on the stellar denominational growth posture we were in prior to 1979. Perhaps it’s based on how the old SBC, reborn in the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, has lit the hills ablaze with evangelistic fervor. They are surely seeing something I don’t.

The Bible, taught as merely true, is a scandal to many, then. It threatens worldviews we all find attractive.

But where can we turn when we come to the end of our parenting skills, when our kids have broken our hearts? Maybe that little green New Testament they brought home from school. Some people will come to know they need something more important than a condom in the bottom drawer of a hotel night stand. What Bible will we use when a grieving family asks hard questions about eternal matters? The true one, the one that doesn’t require a PhD to tell us what it doesn’t say. When debates are ended, when our cynicism fails, we might look for something that is truly a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path. A message from our God.

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