An Evangelical Revisionist’s Take on the Bible

It’s dizzying to think about how many people have read the Bible cover to cover, and how many different perspectives there are on it’s overall message.  Some read it as a legal document, laying out in great detail how one should live in a way that makes God happy – pleased to lay His lightning bolts aside, momentarily at least.  Some read it as a way to get into heaven, with little regard for life in the here and now – and only those with the proper theology are accepted.

Others read it as a document of war, releasing them into the world to point fingers, judge others, and be an agent of God’s wrath, only to find themselves batting for the wrong team.

I was once asked to lead a study on the historical happenings of the Bible – the places, people, events, etc., of the Old and New Testaments.  I rebelled and instead made an attempt to teach both Testaments as one story – which it is by the way, but I didn’t do a very good job.  I started with a room full of people and quickly whittled it down to a small gathering – a little too counter-cultural for this conservative crowd.

In preparing for the class, my perspective on the Bible, and ultimately what God really wants from us, was forever changed.

At the time, my wife and I were about to experience a huge life change, an adoption that would bring challenge, hardship, and joy in one big heaping helping of a little girl named Hannah.  Before her arrival, we decided to go to Brazil, relax and spend some time together.  I read the Bible, uninterrupted, cover to cover, very quickly, on one very long flight, paired with boxed wine and airplane food.

I was taught in Seminary to pick each passage apart, to read the “original” languages, consult multiple resources, etc., before making a decision about what that passage might mean.  Reading it cover to cover in one sitting was something I hadn’t done before.

There’s one theme that pops up over and over again, with alarming repetition, something I would call one of the most prevalent, if not the most prevalent themes of the Bible.  It’s one that, interestingly enough, doesn’t get a lot of air-time from Sunday morning pulpiteers.

Over and over again, in the Old Testament, and in the teachings of the New, God says to everyone He runs into, “Trust Me.”  “I’m on your side.”  “I want things to work out in your favor.”  “Please, whatever you do, wherever you go – TRUST ME.”    It’s hard to catch if you read the Bible slowly, but I dare you – read it fast, really fast, cover to cover, not stopping to ruminate over the parts that bother you, or the ones that don’t immediately make sense.  And drink some crappy boxed red wine.

Sure, there are passages in the Bible that talk about God’s unconditional love, His unlimited power, and how He worked it out so that anyone that wants to go to heaven can go.  There are statements about right and wrong, instructions about how to live, etc., but these are all subtexts in submission to the overarching principle that God wants us to trust Him.

Since my “conversion” on the flight to Brazil, I now hear God saying to me “I know more about what you want than you do.  I won’t give you life on your terms, it’ll be on mine, because my way will get you where you want to go quicker and more completely than yours.  If you’ll trust me I’ll write a story for you that will be amazing.  We can do things your way if you want – you can write your own story, but I write better stories than you do.  Trust me.  It won’t be easy, but it’ll be great.”

If you don’t believe in God, that’s cool, I respect you.  I have great friends who don’t believe as I do, not to mention the fact that they’re the ones who know how to really party.  But imagine for a minute what would happen to the world if everyone believed that there was this “thing up there” that could do anything it wants, loves unconditionally, and is interested in everyone’s life the way a really good parent is interested in her children.

There would be peace.

Peace is the biggest issue in our world.  Always has been.  When people are set at ease about their lives, their finances, their relationships, politics, how things will ultimately shake out, etc., they’re less likely to do bad, and more likely to do good.

I know people of peace, people who look at God this way.  They see what they have instead of stressing about what they don’t.  They’re comfortable in their skins – it doesn’t matter what other people think when you believe that everything will turn out OK.  They’re hard workers. They know work is good, but they don’t stress about it because they have trust, which, ironically, makes them more effective at what they do. Their peace derives from their belief that everything will work out in their favor, which is dependent on their view of God and ultimately their trust in Him.

God doesn’t want you to be a flaming, irrelevant, religious person by the way.  The other guy wants that.  It’s a truly crappy way to live.  Remember that Jesus’ first miracle was to make 180 gallons of wine at a party full of already drunk people.  He doesn’t want you to blindly adhere to a life-numbing list of rules and principles.  He doesn’t want you to be unhappy.  He does however want to change you – to remove the things that are keeping you from being free, from being the person you’re supposed to be.  This process isn’t “easy,” or “safe.”  Trusting Him will mean facing fears that you’ve been chained to most of your life.

But when you believe that He’s on your side, and that He’s a badass who’ll fight for you, with you, and against you when you head in a direction away from freedom and peace, you can face anything.

Jesus said something akin to, “I have peace inside of me – My peace.  God’s peace.  This peace I’m giving to you.  Therefore, don’t be scared.  Of anything.”

There’s one hitch though.  When God sets people free, He wants those people to go and free other people.  God’s freed ones are to be like a vaccine in the jugular vein of a world that’s ever-hurdling towards more fear, anger, suspicion – ever decreasing peace.  What we receive from God we’re to give to others, like Jesus did.

That might sound like a lot, but when you’re at peace, you’re also at strength – your resources aren’t tapped by fear, anger, etc.  I think that’s why religious people look so tired all the time – always trying to bring good into the lives of others, but doing it from a place of obligation, fear, and spiritual stress – not peace.

I had a very troubling conversation with a Gay woman several months ago.  She was afraid that God hated her because she was Gay.  It made her feel gross.  Unlovable.  I very quickly relieved her of that lie and laid on her the truth that God’s love for her has no boundaries or conditions – no barbed wire.  You wouldn’t believe how it changed her – the idea that God loves her, that she can now trust Him to walk alongside her.  Boom.  Peace.

May that kind of peace be with you, and extend far beyond you.

 

 

 

 

47 thoughts on “An Evangelical Revisionist’s Take on the Bible

  • Thank you for this post. I needed to read this. I’m a Christian, and I have read the whole Bible. My faith has wavered over the years, but as a newlywed of a husband that doesn’t go to church, I feel at peace. I share my faith in public and on my blog, but I don’t flaunt it.

    Thank you.

    Sincerely,
    Laura Beth

    hotshotheadlines.wordpress.com

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  • Beautiful truth, Mark. There is such freedom and peace in simply trusting God. Even the cross is a message of complete, unreserved trust … “into thy hands, I commend (intrust) my spirit” (Luke 23:46).

    I began to see the message of trust in thinking about the gardening metaphor so often used in the Bible. God is the gardener, we are His planting. That didn’t really make an impression on me until I moved from the city to the country and planted a big vegetable garden. It taught me that plants don’t weed and water themselves, nor pinch off suckers, transplant themselves, etc. When the zucchini tries to “take over the world”, the gardener cuts it back. It’s also a good idea to harvest them before they reach the size of a basketball.

    By insisting on gardening ourselves, we’ve really mucked up God’s garden. No wonder the end of the world comes down to a Roundup® (double entendre alert). 😉

    Liked by 2 people

  • Wow! This is good! Good on so many levels that I’ll have to read it several times.

    It is also a damned good source of perspective for the last segment of my blog: ‘reinterpretation’ of traditional Christian teachings, the central one of which is Blondel’s restatement of “God is Father” into the statement that “we are related to the ground of being as children to father: God is on our side”.

    Thanks, it made my day.

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    • Great! I think “God as Father,” in the Bible at least, also speaks to the gap between what He knows and what we know.

      “Science and religion are not at odds. Science is simply too young to understand.” Dan Brown

      Liked by 3 people

  • I agree that truly seeing God as Father, as being on our side, is transformative. I read once that the statement which appears most in the bible (taken in its whole sweep, as you suggest) is “Be not afraid” (345 times). Thanks for an excellent and thought-provoking post.

    Liked by 1 person

  • Hey!

    I recently learned, being 69, that our usage of “trust,” has degenerated in the two thousand, since the Empty Tomb. I tested substituting the word “rely on,” for “trust,” and it seats in my soul, far more comfortably than before. In God we (should, must) rely!”

    Cheers,

    Teddy Russell V
    Editor Publisher BBC 2010

    Liked by 2 people

  • Whilst God certainly loves everybody He hates sin and warns against it severally in the bible. Let us share the love of grace of God without leaving out the need for righteousness. Remember the kingdom of God is not merely bread and butter but “righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Ghost. ”
    Remember the Bible says, “wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” 1 Corinthians 6:9-10

    God bless you brother, I love what you said about reading the Bible cover to cover without stopping…I’m going to try that!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanx – I appreciate you stopping by to post your thoughts. I’m going to offer an opinion that might sound offensive at first, but I think it’s a helpful perspective. Please don’t take it the wrong way.

      Paul’s letter to the Corinthians was written to a primarily Jewish audience, ie, people who had recently accepted Jesus as their promised Messiah. That’s a big deal as you know, and you know that Jewish people in Paul’s day had atonement as a central piece to their understanding of God – and hadn’t yet grasped what Jesus had done for them in that area. In other words, they needed to be comforted that Jesus was the final atonement. He’s the one that washed away the sin they would’ve been so worried about. He doesn’t make the statement you quote above to remind everyone of their sin, but to put them at ease about how God now looks at their sin. You should be careful to finish the statement, ie, include Paul’s entire thought, not just the part about sin. I’ll include it here:

      Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men[a] 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

      To not include verse 11 is to take Paul’s words way out of context. He’s trying to put them at ease (peace), so that from a place of peace they can stop treating each other like crap.

      Make sense?

      Liked by 3 people

      • God bless you brother, you are right to take the verse into context. Indeed we are to have peace because we have been washed and cleansed bubthe precious blood of Jes Christ. We arensaged by grace and not by works…our righteousness are as filthy rags to God, that is why we have to be so gratefulnfor the atoneing power of the cross.

        However, if we stop there as Christians we are in trouble. God does not want us to be trapped in guilt and anxiety because of sin that is why He says that He is just and faithful to forgive us our sins if we confess them.

        Now taking into context 1 Corinthians chapter 6, i would like for you to read further past verse 11.

        7The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated? 8Instead, you yourselves cheat and do wrong, and you do this to your brothers and sisters. 9Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with mena 10nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

        12“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything. 13You say, “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food, and God will destroy them both.” The body, however, is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 

        Here Paul is addressing the notion or idea that we can all do whatever we like and it doesnt matter. He is saying here that they say they have the right to do anything but that does not mean that they should.
        Remember, the Bible says “shall we continue to sin that grace may abound?” Indeed we have the grace of God but that is not a licence to do what we know from the word of God is wrong.

        Paul continues in the dame chapter 6… 15Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! 16Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.”b 17But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit.

        He continues to warn us….
        18Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body.19Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.

        The Bible says, God is a God of knowledge and by Him actions are weighed! God looks at our actions and how we live our lives. Faith is good but faith without works is dead. That is why Johnthe Baptist said tobthe Pharisees to bear fruit in line with their repentance. Because it is not enough just to be baptised or born again and to continue living in sin. Every tree that does not bear good fruit shall be cut off.

        We have a mandate to tell the truth of the gospel. The kingdom of God is not just bread and butter, we are to carry our cross and follow Jesus in righteousness, right standing. What makes us different from the world if we prodess Christ but live like we do not know Him.
        The Bible says that Jesus was without sin. We should strive to be like Christ who humbled Himself into unto death. The Bible says that Christ learnt obedience by the things He suffered.

        Unfortinately these days Christians want to go to heaven without striving to obey the gospel at all. We are not helping people intonthe kingdom by giving them false hope. God loves every single person, because God is love. But remember God is also a consuming fire. He is the same God yesterday today and forver. Just because we have the new testament does not mean God has changed, He can never change. He still hates sin. God will always forgive us but we need to strive for righteousness also. Jesus said in the sermon on the mount ” blessed are those that hunger and thirst for righteousness for they shall be filled.

        Please read 2 Peter chapter 2. It says a lot about this topic. One of the things it says is that God will hold the unrighteous for punishment on the day of judgment especially those who follow the corrupt desire of the flesh.

        Revelation 22:12 – “Look I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done.”

        God bless

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      • I’m not sure I’m following you. In what way does my post give people false hope? Also, what “camp” would you put yourself in – only asking so I can get some context as to where your beliefs come from… Thanx

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      • The whole point of my reply from the very beginning was that whilst we are sharing the good news of God’s love and the peace that comes from believing in Jesus, we should not leave out the need for righteousness and Repentance from sin. That’s all. We are all Christians and there is only one Bible and only one Holy Spirit Who gives understanding.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I agree with you that a life with Jesus requires ordering our lives so that we can be free. But that’s not what this post is about. The passages you quote are written to people who have become “Christian.” These are letters that deal primarily with living a Christian life. I’m not writing to Christians here. I seek to have a voice with those who are, for whatever reason, not interested in the Gospel but who, for whatever reason, are reading this blog – which I’m so thankful for ! 🙂

        I’m not going to go into detail about sin, sin management, morality, atonement etc. That seems to be the first/only thing Christians want to talk about when they meet an “unbeliever” and the world has grown weary of it. The Bible gives me free license to scream from the virtual rooftops that the gates of heaven have been blown off their hinges. People are unconditionally loved, and God is on their side. I have no problem talking with Christians about freedom and how their lives should be led, I do it all the time. But that’s a different conversation.

        So ultimately I don’t think you have to talk about sin and atonement every time you write about God’s unconditional love and power. I don’t think I’ve “left anything out,” since hamartiology/soteriology isn’t the purpose of this site.

        I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree – that something’s been left out, or that I’ve given people false hope – in love and respect for one another.

        Can’t tell you how much I appreciate your checking in and sharing your thoughts. Blessings to you.

        Mark

        Liked by 3 people

      • Just wanted to add that I really enjoyed the post and actually a few of your other posts are quite thought provoking. Please don’t take this as an attack or anything. It’s just an observation of mine about main stream Christianity in general.
        God bless 😊

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    • Hi Mark,
      I’ve been reading the discussion that you’ve had with christdailydevoted and found it very interesting. First let me say that I enjoyed your article. I liked the focus on the love of God and the strength that knowing that He loves us gives us. This was really good. We certainly need to be more accepting of others decisions and really we demonstrate our Christianity though our ability to act as he does. We must love them too as our brothers and sisters.

      I also noted your comment that this was directed to those who have not come to love Christ in the way that we have. If everyone was able to show love, regardless of particular faith or denomination, what a better place the world would be. It is, however, a matter of individual choice.

      That said, I just want to add that this is not the ultimate, not the end goal. God has much bigger plans for us and to realise those plans, we need to choose to live and keep the commandments. The commandments are given to us as blessings not as punishments. But we all need to choose.

      Thanks for a great article
      Craig

      Liked by 1 person

  • It’s always a good idea to re-examine the assumptions we have about the Bible, our faith and everything else. We pick up all sorts of messages as children and often just accept them because an adult we trust has told us. Other times we don’t really understand things properly when we are children so we might have come away with the wrong idea or people might have told us a simplified version of something very complicated.

    I’ve found that even the things I was told as a young adult are worth re-examining, and taking a fresh look at the Bible has been very illuminating. I’m finding Brian D McLaren’s book, “We make the Road by Walking” a good way to take a fresh look at the Bible over a year. I’ve found other of his books have helped me re-examine the faith I was taught by fairly fundamentalist Evangelicals as have those of the late Marcus Borg. Richard Rohr is another author whose books offer valuable insights into the life of faith and challenge some of those ideas we picked up early in life.

    Over the centuries some of the traditions of the Church have obscured parts of the original message of the gospels and of the rest of the Bible, and the Jewish ideas and symbolism can be forgotten. So, it’s an interesting exercise to revisit the story of the Bible starting with Genesis and moving through the Prophets to see Jesus’ life and teaching as a continuation of the story of God interacting with human beings. It can give us a whole new perspective.

    Liked by 3 people

      • I am so very glad y’all mentioned this; it’s important!
        I remember a “meeting” at our dining room table when I was 7 years old. You see, my very best friend was Jewish, her father was a Cantor at one of our synagogues and her family always included me, and my whole family, in their celebrations, and vice versa. Well, it was 1964 and much different “rules” were in force back then. It seems someone from our Parish had seen me going into the synagogue with Kiki’s family and, of course, they immediately called the Bishop’s office! Quel horror! A little Catholic girl breaking the rules by entering a synagogue. lol Unfortunately for that person, our Bishop was into my grandmother for around $100 – bless his heart but he was a truly lousy Gin player 😉 and they were very close friends – anyway, he called then there we were, the Bishop, his Auxiliary Bishop, my grandparents and me all having a very civilized tea at our dining room table when he brought up the subject. You see, way back when, it was, technically, an automatic excommunication to even enter the vestibule of any house of worship not on the “approved” list and a synagogue was not on the list. They’re discussing this whole matter, back and forth, yadda, yadda, yadda, when the Aux. Bishop turned to me and asked why I’d been there. I told him there was a special children’s party and I’d been invited but that I’d been there a lot with her family over the past 3 years. And, so, they continued to discuss until I piped up with a question that stopped the Bishop cold. I asked, “But, Bishop, wasn’t Jesus Jewish?” Guess who won that little debate? lol
        The whole point to this long-winded story is that Jesus/Yeshua is Jewish, He was born Jewish, He lived as a Jew (in today’s vernacular He would be considered an Orthodox Jew, to boot), and He died as a Jew. Yeshua was never a Christian. After all, one cannot be one’s own follower, can one? 🙂 Shalom!

        Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech Ha’Olam, Sh’hecheyanu, V’Kiyemanu, V’Higianu LaZman HaZeh. (Praised are You, the Eternal One our God, Ruler of the Cosmos, who has kept us alive, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this moment.)

        Liked by 1 person

  • A friend shared this on Facebook…lovely! And, um, in case you care, “alot” is not a word. It’s actually “a lot”. 😀

    Sorry, I’m a grammar nazi…

    Liked by 2 people

  • WOWZA, this is Fabulous!!! As a devout older woman of God, I’ve gained a lot of His Truth since March 2011–when the Holy Trinity showed up during Easter week to pour out the revelation of how much God loves me, Who Jesus really is–and All that He wants me to have, that He died for. Since then, I read the Bible with new eyes, walking in GRACE–and I’m hungry everyday for MORE, practically addicted to a few of the TV/online preachers who are bringing the Gospel of Grace. It’s a terrible thing to be “saved” young, and then live a miserable Christian life of wrong/unenlightened teaching–but I strongly believe in “better late than never”.

    The battle to get “free” seems to continue, at least for me–but your reminder that all we gotta do is TRUST OD, resonates deep within and Lifts Me Up! The enemy doesn’t want us to be free, his goal is to Lie, Steal and ultimately Destroy us–but God says he’s already been defeated. And as you reminded us, God fights for us– because “the battle is His” (I forget where that scripture is–but trust me, it’s legit). Thank you for blessing my day Big-Time–and may God replenish your supply from His, which never runs out! Azul

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  • I really like all this wrapped up in a bow. It’s what I needed to read this morning! I love the concept of trusting God. It is hard to wrap my head around though. Do you have some ideas for jumpstarting the trust feature? What does that tangibly look like on a typical day when the kid is screaming and you’ve got a commute to work. Not just in a theoretical way. What tangible way (even the most tiny way) could I trust more? This is a struggle that I want to lean into because I see how trust can build relationships and remove the weight of expectation.

    Liked by 3 people

  • Revisionist?? Should be “original” take on Bible. So much has been misconstrued about God, Jesus and the Word. Great job in getting folks back on point!! The other great theme is LOVE. But I do agree that TRUST is first.

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  • Amen! Thank You for putting into words what I have thought so often. I read the bible as a book as a story…..it is the only way to read it. I do compare translations but I do so chapter by chapter not verse by verse….my bible never contained the word homosexual….because it doesn’t belong in it.

    God has taken care of me all my life. Always sent me in directions other than I have wanted to go…..but we got where we were going we made it through…and he took us the quick and ugly path each time….but I am stronger for it…

    he hasn’t healed me but he has answered all my prayers. I am stronger in my weakness

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    • Trust is a hard one, but core to the Christian life. For me, there’s a surrender piece to the whole thing, ie, letting go of my expectations, and believing that He can give me a good life, but it has to be His way, not mine – that’s the difficult part for me. I also believe trust is a miraculous thing – praying for it is key, and one of those prayers I would answer in a heartbeat if I were God.

      Liked by 1 person

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