I want to ask you 4 questions before you dismiss the Bible. I’m aware that you might have valid objections and qualms about the Bible, and perhaps for good reason. But I ask you these searching questions in hopes that you might consider reading the Bible. I believe reading the Bible will immensely benefit you—that it will do you great good, and maybe change your life.
Questions surrounding the Bible abound. The Bible has been people’s basis for abuse—abuse it doesn’t sanction. It’s been misused to bash people over the head with condemnation. It’s been misread and misunderstood, leaving people confused and disinterested. Despite all our poor handling of the Bible, it has endured. And maybe its indestructability tells us something about its validity.
Would you be willing to suspend your judgments about the Bible for a few minutes, and let me try to address your qualms about reading it? I do this in hopes that you will commit to reading it like any other book, front-to-back, seeking understanding.
Let’s hit head on those negative feelings, queasy repulsion, and aversion. Here are the questions to consider.
4 Questions Before You Dismiss the Bible
Have You Read the Bible?
First, have you read the Bible?
By read the Bible I don’t mean have you heard people quote Bible verses, or even listened to a Bible-believer tell you what they believe or heard a preacher once on TV.
I mean have you read the Bible?
Whatever objections you may have, my guess is you gathered those objections from sources outside the Bible—books, news, friends, media. That is to say, other people have hijacked your opinion of the Bible before you ever got the chance to open it. Their opinions have wormed their way into your worldview, without giving you a fair chance at forming your own.
Consider the Bible like any other book. Step back and ask whether you’ve read the book and can make a truly informed personal judgment. Can you dismiss it honestly? Or, might it be worth a fair read?
Maybe You’ve Read a Terrible Witness?
Second question: Are you sure your issue is with the Bible itself, and not someone who claimed to believe the Bible?
Now, many people reject the Bible for this sad reason. People have claimed to believe what the Bible says, or taught what it says, yet acted—well—awfully. But their claims aren’t the Bible itself. Let me give you a story to help you see what I mean.
Let’s say Francine is an avid reader of The Chronicles of Narnia. Admiring the white witch in the story, Francine becomes a witch and calls down curses on her entire neighborhood.
Cindy has never read The Chronicles of Narnia, but knowing what Francine has done, and knowing Francine reads Chronicles of Narnia, she thinks, “Boy, I don’t want to read that book.”
Then you enter the story. Let’s say you genuinely enjoy the Chronicles of Narnia books, and know what wonderful hope and humor and heroism I Cindy would find in it. You have hoped Cindy would read it too, because you know how much she would enjoy it. You also know that the author of the story, C.S. Lewis, wholeheartedly rejected the Occult, and that the witch in his story is the antagonist, sentenced to final defeat. In no way would he ever sanction someone pursuing witchcraft.
You would be frustrated that the book got a bad name because of some fool’s actions, and you would say, “Cindy! That’s Francine’s problem, not the book! You haven’t even read the book!”
There are many people who feel just like Cindy about the Bible. And I bet if that’s your qualm, you suffered a deep hurt that—and I can say this honestly from reading the Bible—the God of the Bible would not support. For such misrepresentation, we Christians ought to offer a public apology. That’s our problem, not our Book’s.
Friend, have you read the book, or have you read its readers? Don’t let poor representation keep you from the treasure of Scripture.
Have You Brought Your Questions to the Bible?
Third question: Are you open to conversation when it comes to your questions?
Let’s say you have an ethical question that you think the Bible answers in an unsatisfactory way. Have you asked that question and spent time finding out whether and how the Bible answers it? The Bible, I mean, not how “Christians” answer it.
I am beyond confident that the Bible can actually answer any question you put to it—its Author is quite clever, and anticipated your objections. That’s part of why I want you to read it. I know you have questions—deep, meaningful, keep-you-awake-at-night questions that need answers! And I know if you were to “search the Scriptures” you may be wonderfully surprised.
Most of the questions we ask when reading the Bible can be answered by the surrounding context of whatever portion we are reading. Read carefully enough, and you won’t be puzzled. Or if you are, it will be about a point that isn’t necessary to understanding the main point of the passage at hand.
If you’ve read the Bible, have you read it well, in a way that brings to the table your questions and musings, just like you would in a literature class? Are you open to conversing about your questions, by hearing what the Bible has to say—even asking its author to reveal himself to you?
Have You Considered Why You Don’t Want to Read It?
Finally, have you ever thought carefully about why you don’t want to read the Bible?
Over time I have noticed that the problem people have with the Bible is seldom intellectual. Most intellectual crises over the Bible can be solved or surrendered to an informed faith, meaning an open-minded “okay, I see how that works” conclusion, even if they don’t like what the Bible has to say.
The problem people have with the Bible is seldom boredom—there’s a reason it’s the bestselling book of all time.
The problem people have with the Bible is seldom a time issue. You have time for whatever you want to have time for.
The problem we have with the Bible is most-often emotional. That is to say, we don’t primarily have a problem with the Bible, we have a problem with the Bible’s Author and main character, God. In fact, the Bible informs us itself that we will have this attitude (Romans 8:7).
The problem we have with the Bible is most-often emotional.
We have a problem with God—who we think he is or how we think he works or what we think he has done. We are convinced that we’ve got better ideas than those he puts forth in what he claims to be his Word (the Bible). We’re also convinced that he’s not as good as he says he is. We look around, look at our lives, or look inside and subconsciously weigh what we see against what we know of his Word. Most often we conclude God can’t be all that great. So we ditch the Bible.
So maybe you reject reading the Bible because you want nothing to do with the God you think it describes.
The Bible may surprise you. It surprised me and continues to do so, even years after I’ve made a habit of reading it. Do you know what catches me off guard? God’s character. When he reveals his name this is what he tells us he’s like:
And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.” (Exodus 34:6-7 NIV)
The first way he describes himself is compassionate. Then gracious. Then slow to anger.
I know there’s an emotional hurdle to jump if you’re going to open the Bible. Friend, there’s no better leap of faith you could take. Think about why you may not want to read the Bible. Could the courage it takes to consider the Bible afresh be worth it?
Will You Do It?
I’ve given you four questions to honestly ask yourself. For you to be willing to take my advice to open the Bible and read, you’re going to need an adventuresome spirit—a willingness to learn, and suspend your objections while you give reading it a good go. You’re going to need what we like to call “faith,” calculated trust that is willing to take action.
May you open the Bible and find it to be just what it claims: alive and powerful (Hebrews 4:12 NLT).