Sherry Austin column: On Christians and the Bible
If you say you believe the Bible is the Word of God, but you don't read it - all the Bible and not just the "get to go to Heaven" parts and the "His eye is on the sparrow" parts - I have a bone to pick with you.
Don't say you don't have the time. You watch TV, cruise the internet? You've got time. Besides, if you really believe God has revealed himself in a book of which you have several lying on a dusty shelf, a book that is splayed open everywhere and is all over the internet in all major translations and languages, wouldn't you make time to read it?
I mean, really: If God wanted to speak to you so badly that he sent you 2,000 pages of texts, wouldn't you want to pore over every word?
If you really believed Almighty God was revealing himself to you in a book, you wouldn't be able to get enough of it. The pages would be dog-eared and soiled with coffee splatters and greasy thumbprints. You wouldn't have to discipline yourself to study it any more than you'd have to make yourself drink water if you were dying of thirst. You'd listen to what the preacher says, then rip it from her hands and read it for yourself. You might be bowled over by what it really says, too. Some truly sublime and outrageous stuff hides in those pages, passages that don't get read from the pulpit or chosen for a Bible study topic.
Maybe, in time, after some months or years, you'd decide the collection of ancient texts we call the Holy Bible is best read only as literature. It is full and running over with astonishing poetry, after all. But maybe, when you dig deep into what seems to be needless complexities and outrageous contradictions and outright errors, you'll decide "the Word of God" is not what you want to call it anymore. Or maybe you'll find that the Word of God is just what it is. Whichever way, you'll be honest.
I meet more and more believers who are almost proud of the fact they haven't bothered to know the very Bible they claim is the foundation of the faith they hold dear. Yet, many nonbelievers and former believers are steeped in it. This is a fact I can back up. That should make you very, very ashamed. I'm sorry to say that nonbelievers do not take your professions of faith seriously because they've seen too many of you spout off about keeping the Ten Commandments prominent in public places, when you can't name three of them.
Hiding behind a statement like "The Bible is true from cover to cover" won't cut it anymore. You will have to back it up. If you say "God said it, I believe it, and that settles it," there are folks who are going to ask you what you mean, where God said it, and why you believe that settles it. From what I've seen, they'll know way more about it than you do. Of course, you can fix that. What you shouldn't do is accuse them of attacking your faith. If they are attacking anything, it's your hypocrisy, and maybe that's a good thing.
Sherry Austin is the author of four works of fiction (many of which contain biblical allusions). "The Days Between the Years" was a finalist for the Willie Morris Award for Southern Fiction.