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The Bible as “The Best Stories We Know

The Bible is a human creation.  The Bible is a human product and creation.  It was not written by God.  God is the great MORE of the universe–more than anything we can say, think, imagine, or conceptualize about God.  Indeed, God is Spirit, infinite love and energy, abiding presence, and endless mystery.  Still, God doesn’t write things.  While I do believe God was a source of tremendous inspiration to the biblical writers (and editors), I do not believe God authored the Bible.

It needs to be said the Bible is in no way diminished because of its human origin.  To be sure, if we think about it, the fact that the Bible was written by human beings is a tremendous accomplishment.  It is humankind’s effort to relate the best stories we know, along with the deepest understandings and meanings these stories have given us over the centuries, to future generations.  That is a profound achievement.

The authority of the Bible.  The authority of the Bible is not God.  Indeed, the authority of the Bible is rooted in the relationships of individuals and communities of faith who have continued to tell and retell the biblical stories over the centuries.  Of course, their relationship to God is of vital importance.  In their own time and own way, these communities of faith (both Jewish and Christian) continued to hear the voice of the Bible and bear witness to the claim it has on their lives.  This claim is the foundation of the Bible’s authority.

I cannot stress too strongly how important it is (to say nothing of being remarkable and impressive) to observe that the Bible has survived so well all these years.  In this sense, the Bible has paid its dues.  It deserves to have its stories told.

The Bible As Mystery and Wonder.  Part of what makes the Bible so believable is that, when we break away from any biblical literalism (where the Bible is seen as infallible and inerrant) and give the Bible a chance to breathe, it nudges us beyond ourselves.  It invites us to embrace the world with mystery and wonder.  The mystery of God, along with the mysteries of love and life, are always inviting to the human spirit.  They are a refreshing reminder that our lives are always on some trajectory of change and transformation.

Mystery and wonder point to that great beyond that always looms.  A new sense of possibility; a first-time feeling about love, or some special spiritual awareness or connection.  New meanings and consciousness are born in these unique experiences.  Think of how the deep feelings and pathos of the Psalms invite us in; and how the mystical love of 1 Corinthians 13 warms our heart and fills our spirit.

The Bible As Sacred and Sacramental.  The sacred is anything that is of God; it is something worthy of our veneration and reverence.  The sacramental is something that mediates an experience of God or of the Spirit.  The Bible is sacramental when the language of its stories, narratives, and poetry evokes in us an experience of God or the Spirit.

Take Psalm 139, for example.  The sacramental possibilities of this psalm would seem to be limitless:

O Lord, you have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from far away. You search out
my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. Even
before a word is on my tongue, O Lord, you know it completely.

(Psalm 139:1-4)

The presence of God coupled with the infinite mystery of life’s ways draws us in.  Taken metaphorically, the words of the psalmist are reassuring.  There is an expansive sense that we are known and understood by one greater than we.  There is the sense as well that God (or the Spirit) is with us; that we are not alone.  These words overflow with sacramental impulse and feeling.  We feel the warmth of God’s presence and spirit.

The Best Stories We Know.  To say the stories of the Bible are the best stories we know is a profound statement.  Step back for a moment and think about this in light of the vast resources available to us for learning and acquired knowledge.  “The best stories we know” is a riveting and powerful claim.  It says a lot about our history and culture, both in and outside the Church.  Such a claim cannot be made lightly.  Indeed, it is an affirmation of how the Bible, as “the best stories we know,” has a claim on our lives

Over time, as we begin to find ourselves in the stories of the Bible, we learn that there is a lot of room in the Bible–room to be human, which means room to fail and succeed, to mourn and celebrate; room for sadness and joy, for belief and doubt; room to die and room to live.  In this sense we find ourselves in the Bible, as the Bible, over time, helps tell us who we are.  Oh what a day!

The Rev. Dr. Jeffrey Frantz is a retired church pastor who began his ministry in the Baptist tradition before becoming a minister in the United Church of Christ. He holds a Doctor of Ministry degree from the Pacific School of Religion. He is the author of The Bible You Didn’t Know You Could Believe In and his just published book: The God You Didn’t Know You Could Believe In. Dr. Frantz and his wife, Yvette, are now retired and living in Boynton Beach, Florida.

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