The Bible is not a perfect book (yet we read it in Small Group)

The Bible contains continuity errors.
The Bible contains huge omissions.
The Bible is unclear at times.
The Bible is unaccessible to some.
The Bible is not a perfect book.
Yet, we read it in Small Group.

(These, also, happen to be the problems people found with the recently-ended television series, Lost, which I greatly enjoyed)

Why are those sentences so hard to write?

The continuity errors appear in sections that aren't trying to tell history according to modern formatting, which is okay.  The omissions appear because the things the Bible thinks are important aren't the things I think are important (who cares what Jesus did between 12 and 30?  I care!).  The mysterious unclarity in other genres is considered a masterful storytelling technique.  The unaccessibility reflect the relational nature of the word of God.

What does it mean to be a perfect book anyway?

I find it difficult to say that the Bible is not a perfect book because some people won't dig into the word "perfect."  Some people, if they hear me say the Bible is imperfect, automatically think I'm saying that the Bible is uninspired, not from God, unprofitable, meaningless, useless, untrue, insane, silly, awful, terrible, no good and very bad.  They, why do we push all of our Small Group Leaders to study the Bible in their communities?  Why do I talk and think so much about it?  Why do I keep on reading it?

Adherents to Islam claim that the Koran is a perfect book.  So do my friends who are Mormon (if it's translated properly).  But "perfect" is not a word the Bible uses of itself.  It claims itself to be "God-breathed" and "useful" in 2 Timothy, but not "perfect."  It claims to be "living and active," "sharp", "penetrating" and "judging" in Hebrews 4, but not "perfect." 

In 2 Samuel and Psalm 18 David sings that God's way is perfect.  In Psalm 19 David claims that the law of the Lord is perfect.  In both cases, the perfect means trustworthy.

But trustworthiness is a high bar in our culture.  To be trustworthy, something has to be scientifically proven, something has to be ironclad, something has to be beyond the capacity of doubt.

The danger, here, is that we're tempted to ask the Bible to prove itself to us as being perfect according to the standards of our age.  It must defend its science.  It must model archaeological precision.  It must demonstrate chronological accuracy.  It must not read like it was written thousands of years ago.  It must fit modern, not ancient, rhythms and methods of communication.  If it doesn't, it isn't perfect.  It isn't perfect.

Why is this so hard for us to say?

1 comment:

  1. It's a bit of a shame that we've come to understand "perfect" to mean a very narrow "flawless." "Perfect" implies purity, completeness, sufficiency, and maturity as well, and if modern man insists on a narrow definition of perfection then I'm glad to admit that the Bible isn't his type of perfect - it's much more perfect than that.

    To modern man, a Kraft single on wonderbread is perfect. The Bible's more like a sharp Appenzeller (oh no, holes! imperfections!) with a dark rye bread.