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Rob Bell on How to Read the Bible

In the midst of a controversy with another pastor, Rob Bell says he replied with this:

I don’t read the Bible like a flat line. I don’t see all of the passages in the Bible sitting equally side by side so that you can pick one and then counter it with another and go back and forth endlessly, always leading you to the randomness of God. I read it as an unfolding story, with an arc, a trajectory, a movement and momentum like all great stories have. There are earlier parts in the story, and there are later parts in the story. The story is headed somewhere, and a Christian, I see it headed to Jesus. Because of this, I read it through the lens of Jesus, especially the parts that come before the specifically Jesus parts. 

Exactly! It’s a story. The story is headed someplace. Jesus is the key to the meaning of the story. But, the story is not over. It’s continuing with us.

Further down the page he writes:

When you understand it as a static report, then you’re constantly having to defend that God and explain why that God is not as evil and cruel as that God clearly appears to be. You’re endlessly trying to reconcile earlier parts in the story with later parts, trying to make them sit side by side on a flat plane, as equals. It leaves you stunted, furthering the stilted literalism that robs these stories of their life. It’s awkward, and unconvincing, and it’s why lots and lots and lots of people don’t sit through sermons like that. (By the way, the endless stream of articles and surveys and columns about declining church attendance rarely if ever talk about consciousness-which is the real reason people don’t go to church. They’ve moved beyond tribal/violent/magical/mythical consciousness and so they experience those sermons and teachings and ways of seeing the world as a step backwards…)

For whatever reasons, the Bible comes out of actual human history, reflecting the funky, flawed, brilliant, frustrating people who told these stories and wrote these books. It reflects growth and maturing and expanding perspectives-much like an individual grows and matures.

The quotes above are from
Part 16 in his ongoing series entitled “What is the Bible?”

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