There are some books I just can’t bother to read, let alone review. There are some blogs I can’t bother to read. There are some pastors I can’t bother to listen to. Sometimes these are people who would be considered on the same “team” as me, at least theologically. But many are, well, let’s say a bit more inventive in their approach to the Bible. They’re the people that say they’re trying to take the Bible seriously on any given subject, but routinely reimagine it what is being said.
And yes, there are certain people I have in mind. You probably have a few, too. (Perhaps they’re even some of the same people.)
Now, don’t get me wrong: I get the impulse. In fact, if I’m really being honest, I can say I’ve been guilty of it, too, and am probably still guilty of it in some areas of my life. As a new believer, I would say some pretty stupid and arrogant things during our Bible studies (both the ones I attended and the ones I led). And I can distinctly remember saying, on more than one occasion, “Well, that was just Paul’s opinion.”
Yes, that really did come out of my mouth. Now, before you stop reading, remember: I was a new believer. I believed the Bible was true. My problem was I just didn’t understand it.
Over time, I got a better sense of what was going on in the Bible, but challenging passages still present themselves. How do we deal with the Bible’s contention that Christians should not intentionally become romantically involved with non-believers? Or that marriage is strictly to be kept between one man and one woman? Or that we’re to forsake all—even our families—in order to follow Jesus?
Honestly, there are times when I can see why it’s tempting to adopt a more novel reading of some of these passages (or abandon them altogether). I mean, who really wants to tell the Christian woman with a non-believing boyfriend that they shouldn’t be dating? Who really enjoys the scorn that comes from being against every “reasonable” person in the West (at least of a socially progressive mindset) on issues of same-sex marriage and gender identity? Who looks forward to the awkward moments at get-togethers when family members’ eyes glaze over when you talk about what’s going on in your life?
And so the temptation comes to light. And far too many of us—whether willingly or out of sheer exhaustion—give in. We reinvent ourselves as “doubt-filled believers,” which too often seems like choosing to be blown about aimlessly by the wind. We try to maintain our identity as evangelicals, even as we saw off the branch upon which we sit. We try to do what we can to get along with everyone, but in the end please no one.
We’re too Christian for some, but not enough for others. You can’t win playing that game.
Which takes us back to the question: why is it so tempting to toss the Bible? Because it’s easier. The Bible is dangerous and obeying is it costly.
When “fighting the good fight,” it’s often us who take a beating. When running to “finish the race,” we hit a wall that’s almost impossible to push through as every muscle in our bodies screams for us to stop. But even then, we don’t give up. Personally, as tempting as it can be to give up, I’d rather, in as much as the Lord strengthens me, say with Paul:
We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. (2 Corinthians 4:8-10)
Tossing the Bible might seems like the easy solution in our moments of weakness, but it’s a losing proposition. We may not want to be on the wrong side of anything, but if I had to choose, I’d rather not be on the wrong side of Jesus.
An earlier version of this article was published in 2014.