I’ve been reading and rereading Rob Bell’s newest book “What is the Bible?”
I spent most of my life thinking the Bible was weird, because I didn't understand the stories and what they were really trying to communicate. And now, thanks to Bell's insight, I feel validated in my questions and confusion. The Bible is weird to me because I am an outsider, it was written for a different people of a different time; it uses writing styles, as well as literary and historical references that the writers intended for a specific audience who would be familiar with this context. All along, I was reading the Bible, too closely and through my modern American context, and that's why I couldn't understand it.
There are so many things that Bell shares in this book that I feel like I've been waiting my whole life to hear, things like:
"...the Bible is not a book about going to heaven. The action is here. The life is here. The point is here. It's a library of books about the healing and restoring and reconciling and renewing of this world. Our home. The only home we've ever had." pg. 53
"For many in our world, the Bible ends the discussion... But in the first century world of Jesus, the Torah and the prophets and the wisdom writings were the start of the discussion. You read it, together. And then you interpreted it... This wasn't just an intellectual exercise. This was about life... Think whatever you want, let your mind wander, but how you act—that's what matters." pg. 153
"So what is this movement happening all throughout the pages of the Bible? It's beneath, within, and above everything, like an electricity that the whole thing is plugged into. Paul calls that Christ... You read these books and they are a reminder of your shared human connection with everybody everywhere... These stories insist in a thousand different ways that we don't have to settle, that tomorrow doesn't have to be a repeat of today, and that we don't have to be enslaved to fear or despair..." pg. 181
"The Bible was written by people. People with perspectives grounded in their cultures and times and places. They're having experiences and undergoing events and then processing and interpreting those events and experiences. That's what the Bible is. It wasn't written by a third party somewhere in the sky who passively and objectively tells you what the plan is. It was written by real people in real places at real times doing their best to make sense of it all. Can you see why questions like Why did God do it that way? will never give you satisfying answers? It's the wrong question..." pg. 244
"We weren't given a science textbook. Or an owner's manual. Or a hermeneutically sealed document. What we have is a fascinating, messy, unpredictable, sometimes breathtakingly beautiful, other times viscerally repulsive collection of stories and poems and letters and and Gospels that reflect the growing conviction that we matter, that everything is connected, and that human history is headed somewhere." pg. 282
After reading this book, my biggest, ultimate takeaway, is that the stories in the Bible are about humans shifting in their understanding of how we engage with the earth and each other. Thousands of years ago, humans thought the world and gods were out to get us, then there was a transition, where humans started to believe in a God who loved us and longed for us to love one another and the earth. To live in harmony. Jesus was an example for us, of how we could live in this new world.
Though it's been more than 2000 years, since we had the example of living love through the example of Jesus, we're still not getting it right. We focus too much on boundaries, divisions, and differences... We focus on rules and weird (non-Biblical) religious equations. We ask questions focused on God's intentions, when we should be asking questions focused on how we should respond. We enforce oppression and fear, and we get in the way of our potential—our potential to live out love.