Does It Really Say That?

A couple of days ago, Tony Jones posted on Theoblogy (don’t worry, I can’t say it either) an excerpt from a New York Times article titled The Evangelical Rejection of ReasonIt’s a very interesting article about the anti-intellectualism and cultural isolation that is the squeaky wheel of evangelical Christianity (it’s doesn’t apply to all evangelicals, but it does get the grease).  At one point, the author references a quotation we’ve all seen or heard before, “The Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it”.  In addition to the implications of isolation and the rejection of reason pointed out in the article, there’s another problem with this statement: whose interpretation of what the Bible says are you talking about?

Like it or not, everyone interprets the Bible; it’s impossible to do otherwise.  We’re talking about literature written thousands of years ago, by people whose language and culture were utterly foreign to ours.  Considering that the Bibles we have today are copies of copies of copies, there are bound to be mistakes in either translation or interpretation.  All too often, when people say “The Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it”, it isn’t the Bible itself they’re believing, it’s the words of preacher or teacher that they actually believe.  How else can you explain theology that allows us to exclude people on the basis of sexual orientation, back state-sponsored execution of criminals and cheer the death of our enemies.  All of these things are directly contradicted by the words and actions of Jesus, the man we profess to follow.  In Mark 2:17, in response to the Pharisees questioning His dining with “sinners” (those outside “accepted” society), Jesus said

” “Healthy people don’t need a doctor, but sick people do. I didn’t come to call righteous people, but sinners.”

In Matthew 18, when Peter asked how many times he should forgive someone who wronged him, Jesus said:

“Not just seven times, but rather as many as seventy-seven times.[a]23 Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants”

And, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told us:

” But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who harass you”

With the advent of the Occupy Wall Street protests, there seems to be some question over how Jesus feels about how we treat the poor, there’s this from Matthew 25:41-46:

““Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Get away from me, you who will receive terrible things. Go into the unending fire that has been prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 I was hungry and you didn’t give me food to eat. I was thirsty and you didn’t give me anything to drink. 43I was a stranger and you didn’t welcome me. I was naked and you didn’t give me clothes to wear. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’

44 “Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison and didn’t do anything to help you?’ 45 Then he will answer, ‘I assure you that when you haven’t done it for one of the least of these, you haven’t done it for me.’ 46 And they will go away into eternal punishment. But the righteous ones will go into eternal life.”

You be the judge of what the Bible says.  Remember, God gave you a brain; He meant for you to use it.