From the Reverend’s Desk
By Reverend Eric Gates
In our most recent Bible study group, which I host at my home, we discussed GQ magazine’s article, titled “21 Books You Don’t Have to Read.” They took a list of books that are either considered classics or show up on “must read” lists and dismissed them while offering, in the place of each, a different book – which in the opinion of various authors who contributed to the article was more worth a readers’ time.
Among the books the article suggested jettisoning were Lonesome Dove, The Catcher in the Rye, The Old Man and the Sea, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Catch-22, Slaughterhouse-Five, and as mentioned, the Bible.
In dismissing the Bible, novelist and poet Jesse Ball, wrote, “The Holy Bible is rated very highly by all the people who supposedly live by it but who in actuality have not read it. Those who have read it know there are some good parts, but overall it is certainly not the finest thing that man has ever produced. It is repetitive, self contradictory, sententious, foolish, and even at times ill-intentioned.”
In its place, Ball suggested reading Agota Kristof’s The Notebook, which he described as “a marvelous tale of two brothers who have to get along when things get rough.”
I believe that this is nonsense. In our study group, we came to two conclusions. First, GQ magazine did this for attention (I mean c’mon, when’s the last time you actually READ a GQ magazine?) We also concluded that the Bible is important to read.
With that, here are some metaphors to help you grasp the meaning of the Bible in today’s world:
The Bible is a finger pointing to God. Anything that points to God is not asking us to believe in itself but in that to which it points. Being a Christian does not mean primarily believing in the finger, but in believing in the God to which the finger points. Or as Mary Lathbury’s hymn, “Break Thou the Bread of Life” puts it, “Beyond the sacred page, I seek thee, Lord.”
The Bible is a lens through which we view God. The lens is not perfect, and to some degree it distorts what we see, but it is still the clearest view of God that we have.
The Bible can be considered similar to a sacrament, like Communion, to enhance our experience of the presence of God.Communion does not ask us to believe in the bread and wine, but to let them act as a kind of go-between to deepen our experience of God. The Bible is a go-between in the same sense.
The Bible is, as Peter dubbed it in 2 Peter 1:19-21, “a lamp shining in a dark place.” A lamp does not eliminate all darkness, but it enables us to find our way through it.
Of course, we benefit more from the Bible by actually reading it. Read it for how it can convey you into the presence of God and enable you to see, even if imperfectly, the way of God and to hear God’s call to you. And that can happen whether you’re reading the Bible on stone tablets, paper pages or glass screens.
Have a safe June and I’ll see you all after the summer!