Did God give us the kind of book He wanted, or did He give us a book that we would have to make into the kind of book we wanted?
To ask the question is to answer it.
We must accept the Bible the way God gave it to us, trusting that the kind of book we need is the kind of book God gave. If we want something different than what God gave, that is our problem, not His.
What kind of book did God give us? God gave us a story.
So now the question before us is not how we can rearrange the story and cut it up into pieces to make it more “helpful,” but rather to figure out why God chose to give us such a book.
Why did God give us a Story?
The answer is that God knows that a story is more powerful than a list. A story has more transformative power than a doctrinal statement or an ethical code of conduct.
When the Bible is taken as a story, it becomes far more powerful and effective in changing lives and transforming society than any book of doctrine or code of ethics ever could.
Once we begin to think of the Bible this way, we begin to realize that although the Bible is not the kind of book we want, it is more than sufficient for what we need.
Although the Bible may be nothing more than a story, it is certainly nothing less.
To try and rearrange the Bible into the type of book we want is to completely ignore and miss the universal transformative power of a well-told story.
The Bible truly is the best story ever told.
If you doubt this, just start paying closer attention to nearly every movie, every novel, and every song ever written. The vast majority of them are based heavily on the themes and plotline of Scripture. The authors and writers may not have intended this, but the longings, desires, and ideas that connect most with people, are the longings, desires, and ideas that are found everywhere within the story of Scripture.
And while movies, novels, and songs often lead people astray into false directions of fulfilling their longings and desires, the story of Scripture serves as a better guide.
The Story of Scripture
The story of Scripture is of man’s quest for God, and God’s quest to reveal Himself to man. As a story, the Bible does not tell us what to do or how to live. It tells us what people have done and how they have lived, and what the consequences were.
Furthermore, the Bible shows us what people believed God was like and thought God wanted from them. Ultimately, God revealed Himself to the world through the person and work of Jesus Christ.
As we read the Bible, we learn how God worked in generations past, what sorts of endeavors the people of God embarked upon, and how these endeavors turned out. Some were successful; but others were complete failures.
In this way, the Scriptures describe not what we must do today, but what has been done in the past as people tried to follow God in spreading His message, His rule, and His reign. We can learn from the past, not what we must do today, but what they did in their time.
Scripture shows us the road that was marked out for them, and how they journeyed along this road or strayed from it.
Though men and women throughout history have had various ideas about who God is and what God is like, Jesus settled all the disputes and showed us who God truly is. “We are forever getting confused into thinking that scripture is mainly about what we are supposed to do rather than a picture of who God is” (Resident Aliens, 85).
Do you think this way of reading Scripture will help you understand God and your life better? What are the strengths of this approach? What are the drawbacks?