3 Wrong Ways to Read the Bible
by Jason Boyett
How to read the Bible without trying to make it into something it’s not.
One of the most curious artifacts of my Bible-belted, Southern Baptist childhood was an activity called Bible Drill, in which kids in grades four through six compete on how well they know the Word of God. We’d be quizzed on our ability to quote verses, memorize references and identify passages. One of the coolest parts of the competition was a timed event where we had 10 seconds to locate a specific book of the Bible. We’d line up, facing a crowd of nervous parents, and the moderator would call out the get-your-Bibles-ready command: “Attention. Present swords. Begin!” And in a flurry, we’d scramble to locate, say, the book of Amos.
I rocked Bible Drill. And weirdly, I still find that archaic phrase “present swords” fluttering through my mind, like song lyrics without a melody.
There’s plenty of precedent for using Scripture as offensive weaponry, including the famous Armor of God passage in Ephesians 6. But we’ve taken that metaphor much further, turning the Bible into a box of ammunition. Individual verses have become our bullets in the culture war. Fighting homosexuality? Load up on Romans 1:27. Battling Hollywood filth? Chamber a round of Philippians 4:8.
The problem is that the Bible is so much more than a rulebook. Granted, parts of the Bible—Leviticus and much of Deuteronomy, for example—were sets of rules. But Jesus redefined that way of thinking and living. Later, Paul made it clear that an over-reliance on the “law” side of Scripture was like living under a curse (Galatians 3:10) or looking at life through a veil (2 Corinthians 3:14).
If the Bible can be reduced to a collection of ethical principles, how do we deal with the fact that Christians throughout the centuries have come to contradictory conclusions on what they are?
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