The Bible Is

The Bible is laid out the way it is, in roughly chronological order, because that is how books work. And books work that way because that is how we, people, experience time. Sometimes authors jumble the order in which they relate the events for dramatic effect, but the underlying narrative is linear. I know of only one book where the author attempted to mess with the human experience of time, James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake, which is told as a round – it loops back to its own beginning. Finnegan Wake is my all-time favorite novel, but honestly, Joyce didn’t quite succeed. He couldn’t, actually, because no matter what the author does, the reader must needs read the book in a certain order. Skipping from page to page, sentence to sentence would yield no sense. In the case of Finnegans Wake, getting any sense out of the text is hard enough.

Reading the Bible in the order it’s laid out is fine. My personal bias is for the Gospels above all else, and I am barely familiar with the Old Testament, which I intend to do something about in the future. One must remember though, that God is not human, is not limited to our linear experience of time, and can do any dang thing He pleases. He can, for example, drop events into the Creation that point to the Crucifixion and Resurrection in the Gospels. Which He did. Please see Genesis 3:15 certainly can be interpreted as referring ahead to Christ, but as Christ is one with the Father, Christ is present through all of the Bible.

I was reading Bonhoeffer’s The Cost of Discipleship and he mentioned the Abraham sacrificing Isaac episode in Genesis, which I have had some major issues with in the past. i was pretty bugged about it. A lot of people are. Leonard Cohen, for whom I have no affection, wrote a dull, monotonous song about it. It’s a hard story and the fact that God calls it off at the last minute don’t make it less hard.

But then I thought about it with the idea that Christ was in it. (Bonhoeffer had his way of imagining that story with Christ in it. I’ve go mine.) It’s pretty easy to see Abraham and Isaac as symbols of God and Jesus – the Father sacrificing the Son. In the case of Abraham/Isaac, the actual sacrifice is halted at the final moment; with God/Jesus, it is carried through, even though Jesus makes it clear that he could stop it. Remember, in Gethsemane, He says He could call legions of angels to prevent Him being arrested. Isaac, the human son, has no power to stop his death. Jesus, the Divine Son, at one with the Father, has the power, but does not use it.

People like to get up in their feelings about how mean god was to Abe, putting him in that spot. Whatever. The world is hard. God is God and God can do whatever the eff God wants. And God took the pain that God spared Abraham and Isaac. God was not obligated to do that, but She did.

I do not read the Bible as history. It makes no difference to me whether or not there actually was a guy named Abraham who went up a mountain to kill his son, Isaac. If those events occurred, that was a long time ago and it don’t help me with my current struggles one bit. I read the Bible entirely for my own good. I am looking for how I can learn to be in the best possible relationship with God, the world, my neighbors and myself. Whinging about God being a meanie doesn’t help me.

It occurs to me here that Atheists are almost always from privileged groups. The poor, oppressed and marginalized are more likely to rely on God – by whatever name. (LGTQ+ are an exception to this rule, because they’ve been pushed out of many churches, but they’re rallying and returning, remaking church and reclaiming their right to be part of the body of Christ. Queer Christians are a movement, y’all.) Stands to reason then that if Atheists wanna promote Atheism, they’d do better to shut up about spaghetti monsters and do some work to help people up. Raise the poor out of poverty so they can stop relying on a fantasy, that kinda thing. Let me know when that happens.

People who have suffered long and hard are, generally, less likely to get a big sad when thing are tough. Black church is an example. The Black church has generally been pretty okay with the OT because Black people in America know what suffering is. Life is hard. No shit.

All this is me working shit out with the Bible. It is a big book with some really hard stuff in it and I am frequently confused and /or offended by this chapter or that. I continue to resist, argue, ponder, ask others, pray and sit with the discomfort. And remember, I’ve barely scraped the OT. I know the bits that most everybody knows. There’s a lot there that I haven’t even started on.


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