If you ask my wife, she’ll tell you that I’ve always got five or ten different projects on the go. I’ve got a short attention span, so I do best and get more done when I can work on something for a couple of hours and then switch my mind to a completely different task. Switching to something new is often as good as taking a break!
Lately a lot of my tasks and projects have converged at the point of the Bible and, more precisely, the nature of God’s Word. I have been thinking about the sheer otherness of the Bible, the fact that it is so different from every other book. And I got to thinking, What if I had written my own bible? How would it be different? How would a simple, sinful person like myself approach the task of writing a standard of faith and practice that was meant to transcend all times, contexts and cultures?
If I wrote the Bible…
…There would be more rules. A lot more. In those times when I want to have my way, or those times when I know the right thing to do, I naturally gravitate straight to rules. Because there’s no easier way to get people to obey my will than to give them rules, my bible would undoubtedly be dominated by lists of rules to govern just about every possible circumstance. I expect this would make for a much longer book, but that would just have to be the cost.
…There would be much less grace. There would be a lot less room for freedom. Where God gives us so much room for our personal preferences, I would elevate my preferences and negate diversity in favor of clear uniformity. I would see less beauty in diversity and a lot more beauty in conformity.
…There would be fewer genres. One thing I continue to find surprising about the Bible is how it shifts so often between genres, going from histories to prophecies to poetry to apocalypse to epistles. I would be unlikely to consider something like the poetry of Song of Solomon or the personal appeal of Philemon. Again, my bible would be dominated by the new genre “Lists of Rules.”
…There would be much more explanation. One of the things most people find perplexing as they read the Bible are those areas in which God chooses not to explain himself. How could he sanction massacres of entire cities? How could he allow Satan to do what he did to Job? How could he have allowed the serpent into the garden all those years ago? And just how do human responsibility and divine sovereignty work together? For the sake of my own reputation, and fearing the frustration or even the mockery of the reader, I’d feel it necessary to give those answers.
…There would be much less uncomfortable stuff. If I wrote a bible, I think I would leave out a lot of stuff God saw fit to include. I’d definitely leave out that brutally tragic story in Judges 19 where a woman is gang raped and dismembered. I’d probably leave out the bit about David dropping a pile of Philistine foreskins at the feet of Saul. Out of concern for my own reputation, and out of fear of man, I would sanitize my bible.
…There would be an extensive FAQ section. You know that section at the end of the ESV Study Bible that has all the articles and essays? I’d need to have at least that amount of space for a Frequently Asked Questions section because I’d feel the need to provide a clear answer to every question that good people dispute. Have the miraculous gifts continued or ceased? I’d answer that definitively. What should we believe about the timing and circumstances of Christ’s return? I’d answer that. Should we baptize infants or believers? Yes, that one too.
…The canon would not be closed. If I wrote a bible it would be a work in progress. I would never close the canon and consider it complete and perfect because I am always learning and growing and changing my mind. What I consider beautiful at one stage in life I consider ridiculous in the next. Whatever bible I wrote, I’d need to keep open-ended so I could adapt it as I went.
Where all those other scriptures are self-refuting, the Bible is self-attesting. Where those false Bibles are oh-so-human, God’s Word is oh-so-divine, oh-so-other. And if no man could write it, the only rational explanation is that it must have been written by God.