Growing up in a devout Christian household, I was always taught that the Bible was the only possible way of connecting with God and that people who didn’t read the Bible or go to church were “fake Christians.” Still being a strong believer in God who has chosen to give up reading the Bible on a regular basis and who no longer goes to church, I have been given backlash about how my faith in God must be struggling because I no longer feel the need to partake in such activities.
Here’s the deal. The way I was raised, the Bible was God’s “ultimate authority” and was God’s perfect, divinely inspired word. As I took a class on Western religions this past winter, I came to truly recognize and accept that the Bible is not a perfect and seamless book. It has contradictions and things that are opposite of God’s loving nature. The Bible in and of itself is not the word of God; it merely contains God’s word in some parts. But that does not mean the entire Bible is incorrect or fundamentally flawed. This means that no, God did not divinely inspire every single word. But it also doesn’t mean the Bible is any less useful. In fact, I believe this makes the Bible even more fascinating.
We often use Bible verses to support why our opinion is correct, but the Bible also contains many verses that support opinions we may disagree with. This is called pluralism. This means that there is not one right way to do things, and definitely not one right or wrong way to be a Christian. Look at the Ten Commandments. “Thou shalt not kill” may say killing is never okay and yet, killing in the name of self-defense is not a sin. “Thou shalt not bear false witness” is often used to condemn lying, but how many of us grew up with our parents telling us the lie of Santa Claus? I think any act is not inherently good or bad, it’s simply the heart with which we do something that determines the morality.
We don’t have to take every single word of the Bible as God’s commands because God would not command only one way to do something and then contradict himself. God is also not “unchanging” in the sense that what he said way back then applies forever. In fact, there are many stories in the Bible where God “repents” and changes his mind. God’s mind changes, but His love for us does not.
As someone who is majoring in a language, I can tell you that cultures play a huge part in translation. Translating everything word for word would not make any sense. Now keep in mind that the cultures represented in the Bible evolved quite a bit over time. The Bible was also written in three different languages, which all have connotations of their own. The King James Version is said to be the closest translation, but therein and of itself lies some important things to consider. That was old English with its own connotations. Read Shakespeare and you’ll soon realize that there are a lot of things you don’t understand. Shakespeare’s life was the same time period as the publication of the King James Version. So if you don’t understand Shakespearean English, you certainly cannot say that you fully understand the King James Version. Newer translations take modern culture and vocabulary into account, and therefore, may lose the meaning originally intended in the Ancient Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic. One example is the word “fornication.” This word came from the Greek word “porneos,” which did not simply mean sex before marriage. It meant sex as a form of worship to other gods, prostitution, or sex used to harm others.
You have every right to believe whatever you want to believe, whether it’s a fundamentalist belief or not. But please, never explain your use of the Bible to hurt others as doing it “for their own good” or “knowing better” than all of the “lost souls.” Don’t use the Bible to bash gays, to be racist, to shame others for having sex before marriage, or even to prove how you’re a “better Christian” than someone else. Don’t look down on other Christians who don’t read the Bible and go to church because everyone connects with God in a different way. In my case, I stopped doing these things because I learned to use the Bible as a weapon to harm others and church only ever reinforced that power. And I’m sure God would much rather have me showing His love on a daily basis than persecuting literally everyone who makes a mistake. “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” You don’t know everyone’s situation or relationship with God. If you think you’re gonna “have a talk” with someone to try and force them back into that lifestye, forget it. Don’t discuss to change someone. Discuss to understand and show godly love and compassion. After all, if you really knew the Bible so well, you would know to judge not lest ye be judged.