By Jill Riley
I love Bibles. I am particular to brown and red leather Bibles, although I can also rock the official black leather. I have other preferences too. Recently I have developed distaste for “compact” Bibles because the print keeps shrinking and I think cardboard covers somehow cheapen the quality of the contents.
One of my favorite leisure activities is to roam the book store aisles, coffee in hand and look up my favorite verses in the new translations or paraphrases, scoff under my breath at the “one minute a day” and anime versions, look at the newest iterations of pictures and maps; all the while asking myself whether one volume or another should be deemed worthy of my dollar. In this western affluent world where we can get not just one of anything we want, like Bibles, but as MANY as we want, what makes something precious? What makes it special?
These are the kinds of questions I am so often asked by the skeptics, curious, and dissenters that we call our church members. They ask, “How can the Bible be the sacred text, the foundation of wisdom, knowledge, peace and future when so many human hands and minds could have muddied up the works and influenced the outcome?” I’ll admit to you here quietly and somewhat ashamedly that I really can see their point! How dare we weigh and decide the balance of our lives on one book that has human hands all over it? How can that book then possibly be divine?
This book is historically verified. It has been archeologically vetted. Literarily it is genius. And yet, this is not how I lead into a conversation on the sacredness of the text. I speak to our friends about how the GOD of the Bible has changed my life. I share how it has given me hope in the darkest of days; through thoughts of suicide, deep debilitating depression, a child diagnosed with cancer, the abandonment of my mother, the death of my father, and the rigor of every day pastoring. It is sacred because the God who loves me is an active presence during my reading and brings those words to me in times of need, crisis and care. THIS is what I tell our doubters and skeptics. I DARE them to trust words in the Bible. I am confident that when they do, their hearts will be changed and the sacredness of the texts becomes a personal and not academic conversation.
In the midst of my great confidence in God’s truth, I do still sometimes I wonder if I am doing enough?
Should I foray into the history, archaeology, and languages of the scriptures to prove that it is the real deal?
Or can I be content with explaining the sacredness of the text through subjective human experience?