The Bible is Not a Book of Answers (it’s much better)
Originally published at https://rethinknow.org on August 26, 2019.
The Bible has the answer, what’s the question?
I can think of plenty of questions the Bible cannot answer. Important questions too. Instead it remains silent. Why? Because, the Bible is not a book of answers.
I’m not sayings there’s no answers. There are. What I’m saying is the primary purpose of the Bible is not answers all our questions. And there are plenty of questions that the Bible doesn’t even try to answer.
Yet still many people think and approach the Bible as if it contains all the information they could ever possibly need. That understanding will only lead you to disappointment and confusion. Because the Bible is not a book of answers.
It’s Not Black and White
Much damage has been done by well meaning Christians who took a stand on an unclear issue that seemed so clear to them… I know, I know… There was a proof text for that. But there’s probably also a proof text for that same issue from a different perspective. Remember the Bible is not an answer book.
When we read the Bible in its totality we will see themes that continue and connect throughout the whole book. But we will also see our fare share of ambiguity. We will see different perspectives on the same issue. That doesn’t diminish the Bible. It shows the complexity that exists within the pages, which reflects the complexity we experience in life.
Many of us pick up the Bible to find the answers of life. But the Bible doesn’t give us many answers, rather it holds up a mirror. It asks us questions of ourselves. And most importantly it transforms us. Not by the knowledge we find, but by the God we meet within the pages.
That’s exactly what the author of Hebrews is getting at in Hebrews 4:12. “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
Hebrews uses a different analogy than a mirror, but the point is the same. It speaks of an encounter that brings transformation, major transformation, into the readers life. It doesn’t bring answers, but rather it brings change.
So if the Bible is not an answer book, then what is it? Well, let’s look at three things it is.
It’s a Story
The Bible is a story. Quite possibly the greatest love story. Coupled with the most heartbreaking moments. It’s also a drama playing out on the grandest stage. A poetic look at the human condition. With plenty of wildly inappropriate incidents. The murder and mystery. Hope and tragedy. The Bible has it all.
But ultimately the Bible is a story of redemption.
It’s a story of a God that goes to extreme lengths to bring his people back to Him. It’s a story of a people that choose death over life and a God that took on death so that he could bring his people back into life.
N.T. Wright puts it this way: “We read scripture in order to be refreshed in our memory and understanding of the story within which we ourselves are actors, to be reminded where it has come from and where it is going to, and hence what our own part within it ought to be.” ( Scripture and the Authority of God)
The Bible is a story. It’s a story that teaches us and reminds us who God is and what He has done. It’s through this story that we are reminded by the people that have gone before us that God is good and faithful.
But it’s much more than just a story we read. It’s a story that’s unfolding all around us. This isn’t like the stories in all the fairytale books we read as a kid. It’s not some make believe, get you through tough days book. It’s a real story that’s alive and active today. We get to play a role in the story that’s unfolding. The Bible tells a story of the past and challenges us to play a role in the story that’s happening around us.
It’s a Journey
The more I read and study the Bible I realize it’s more of a journey rather than a destination.
What I mean is that the Bible isn’t really interested in answering our questions. Which is how most of us read the Bible. Rather it takes us on a journey that reveals who we really are and who God really is.
The Bible is taking us on a journey. It does so by reminding us of the past and preparing us for the future.
The Bible reminds us of those who came before us. It reminds us of God’s faithfulness to them. And then it reveals our part in the grander story that is still unfolding all around us. And if we let it, it will take us on a journey. A journey to a deeper faith and a role in the story God is telling.
That’s the beauty of the Bible. It’s not just a book to read to gain knowledge, like every other book. It’s a living book that can actually change you and guide you… If you let it.
I love how the Psalmist puts it in Psalms 119:105 “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.” It’s an image of the journey we are on and what the Bible offers us. The Psalmist knows that God’s word is not the answer book for life, rather it’s a light on the journey he is on.
If we continue to approach the Bible as a book of black and white answers it will fail us. Because that’s not it’s intent. But when we approach it as a journey and when we join God in the story He is telling all around us, it changes how we approach it. The Bible is a tool, a resource, that can help us on this journey through life.
It’s an Invitation
Finally the Bible is an invitation. It’s an invitation into the story God is telling and an invitation to join him on the journey he’s leading you to.
When we approach the Bible this way it changes how we read and understand it. We don’t go searching for answers. Rather we go to it to be reminded and encouraged by what God has done. Not only what He’s done, but also what He’s doing. It’s through the Bible we are transformed into a new person. Not because we have more knowledge, but because we met God in the pages.
The Bible is an invitation. The question for us is will we accept the invite? Will we let God do the transformative work He wants to do in our life? Or will we keep it at arms length because that’s safer?
That’s why many stay with the black and white view of the Bible. It’s easier, it’s safer. It doesn’t require a lot. But you will also miss out on the depth and richness of Scripture. The invitation is a risk, it will cost you. The journey is strenuous and the story has its fair share conflict. So the fear of the unknown, the potential pain keeps many away. But it’s on the only side of that pain is true transformation.
Leaving the Black and White Behind
Many of us grow up with a black and white view of life. But as we grew we let go of that view. Because life is not that way. It’s much more complex. Still many hold onto their black and white understanding of the Bible. It’s time to let that go. It’s time to embrace the Bible for what it is.
That’s the beauty. As we let go of our simpler view of the Bible we once had it can be scary at first. Because it’s not so easy to understand. It’s more complex, a lot more grey. But at the same time it becomes SO much richer. It’s part of the maturing process as we grow in our faith and understanding of God.
If you want to embrace the richness and depth that God has for you in the Bible then you have to embrace some grey. The Bible is not black and white and that’s a good thing. Because what God has for you in the pages is so much better than the answers. He wants to show you Himself. Will you let him?
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Originally published at https://rethinknow.org on August 26, 2019.