The Bible is unlike any other book. It’s far and away the most popular book of all time. More copies of the Bible have been sold /distributed than the next 10 books put together. Yet despite its popularity no book has been misused, misunderstood, or collects more dust than the Bible.
Much of this stems from some misconceptions about the Bible. While the Bible is 100% true, there is a BUT. Rather a few. It’s important that we understand these BUTs so that we can have a better understanding of the Bible and the message it’s communicating. Not only what the Bible is, but also what it isn’t. The BUTs are important.
Let’s look at some of these BUTs…
All True, But Not All Equal
Everything in the Bible is true, but not all truths hold the same weight. All truth is not equal, or at least not equally applicable.
Take the book of Acts for example, a great compilation of the history of the early church. It’s a great book, and it’s all true. But it doesn’t hold the same theologically weight as say, the book of Romans. Both books are true, but they must be applied and interpreted very differently.
While everything in the Bible is true, not everything is equally applicable or relevant for every life stage.
Take for example John 3:16-17; this passage is valuable for the young, the old, and the in-betweens. It’s a good truth for a new Christian, someone who’s been a Christian for a long time, and it’s good for people considering following Jesus to know. It gives a concise message of the Gospel. It’s applicable at every age and life stage.
Now compare John 3:16-17 to the Song of Songs. Both are true. But Song of Solomon would be of little use to teach a Sunday School class of 4 year olds. It’s not yet applicable to them, yet. It’s true, but it’s in their life stage they do not need to know the fullness of that truth.
All scripture is true, but not equal. We must evaluate each truth in scripture to discover how we should apply it in our lives.
All True, But Not the Center of Christianity
I might lose some of you on this one. But bare with me.
Everything in the Bible is true, but it’s not the center of Christianity. Nor does it claim to be. Christianity is built upon Jesus (God in flesh), his death for our sins, and most importantly his resurrection conquering death. That’s the center of Christianity.
The Bible is not the center of Christianity, rather it is written about the center of Christianity: Jesus.
Let me be clear. I’m not trying to downplay the importance of the Bible. Rather I want us to have the correct view of scripture. The Christian faith is built upon Jesus, and what he did for us. The Bible contains that story and how we should live in light of what he did.
“Christianity does not exist because of the Bible any more than you exist because of your birth certificate. Your birth certificate documents something that happened. If you lose it you do not go out of existence.”Andy Stanley
We should let the Bible point us and guide us towards Jesus. The Bible is all true, but it’s not the center of faith for Christians.
All True, But Not Comprehensive
Everything in the Bible is true, but not everything that is true is in the Bible. We know this, but sometimes we fail to live like this. If I jump off my roof I know I’m going to fall to the ground and hurt myself. The Bible doesn’t tell me that, but science does. It’s true, but it’s not in the Bible. Truth exists apart from the Bible. I don’t go to my Bible when I’m trying to repair my car. Why? Because that truth is not in there. But that doesn’t make the Bible any less true. It just means that not everything is in the Bible.
Contrary to popular belief the Bible doesn’t tell you everything you need to know. That’s not the purpose of the Bible. The purpose is to tell the story of God redeeming his people and the hope that we have because of what He has done.
Anyone claiming the Bible contains everything you need to know is just wrong. It doesn’t. And that’s not the point of the Bible. The Bible’s goal isn’t to point to ALL truth. What it does is point to the greatest truth, Jesus. The Bible is all true, but all truth is not in the Bible.
All True, But Not the Same Purpose and Style
Everything in the Bible is true, but not everything is written for the same purpose. The Bible is often viewed as one book, but really it’s a compilation of 66 unique books, with different styles, authors, and purposes. You cannot read each book the same.
This is a rough graph that depicts some of the various genres that are found in scripture. Each much be read and interpreted differently. Think of it this way. You don’t read a history textbook the same way you read a book of poetry. One is read as literally truth and the other is an artistic and probably emotional examination of something. They are both useful and needed, but vastly different styles and serve different purposes.
When we approach the Bible we must read each book the way it was intended to be read. Much harm has been done from people claiming because the Bible is all true you should take everything in it literally. You shouldn’t. At least not all of it.
Take the book of Psalms for example. It is a book of poetry and songs and uses exaggerated language to point to a truth. It’s not literally true. We do the same thing today in our songs and poems. Bruno Mars claims that he would catch a grenade, throw his head on a blade, and jump in front of a train for the one he loves. Is that literally true? Probably not. He is exaggerating the truth to point to how deep his love is for that person. The book of Psalms (and all poetry in the Bible) does the same thing.
Each genre needs to be read differently. When a genre of one of the books is historical or Gospel it can be read more literally. When it’s poetry or apocalyptic or prophetic then it shouldn’t be read literal; rather look at the meaning behind the words. And the books of Law and the Letters in the NT need to be read in the context of the audience to which they were written.
Just as we read modern books in the genre they were written we must do the same with the Bible. If we don’t we will end up with a warped view of the authors original intent. The Bible is all true, but comes in many styles and different purposes.
With a better understanding we can read the Bible the way it was meant to be read. And I believe the impact that will make on our individual faith journeys will be huge. Not only that, I believe it will bleed over in how we treat others. If we get rid of some of these misconceptions of the greatest news of all time, it can be better spread to those that desperately need it.
Your turn… What are you thoughts? I’m sure some reading will disagree. I would love to hear from you as well!