Wednesday Word: A Bible Believing church
The Bible is not a series of metaphysical claims, but is primarily a story of how communities of faith have responded to the presence and activity of God in their midst. -- Samuel Wells, What Episcopalians Believe, p. 47,
This sentence came in a larger discussion about a variety of acts recorded in the Bible – things such as creation, the origin of species, the virgin birth, and any number of other miracles. This sentence stood out to me because, once again, I happened to come across yet another church that advertised itself as a “Bible believing church.”
I don't know about you, but when I see or hear those words my first instinct is to run away.
When a church advertises itself as “Bible believing,” it tells me that one of their core beliefs is that other churches do NOT believe what the Bible has to say.
When a church advertises itself as “Bible believing,” it tells me that they focus more on segregation than on inclusion.
When a church advertises itself as “Bible believing,” it tells me that what they believe are the verses confirming their preexisting prejudices.
St. John's in particular, and the Episcopal Church in general, is also a Bible believing church – we just don't feel the need to advertise that fact. But maybe we should.
It seems that Christianity has been hijacked by fundamental dominionists with loud voices and platforms that spread a particularly segregated and virulent form of the faith. Things like a six-day creation, the sin of Ham, women must remain silent, women should submit to their husbands, a lack of care for creation because Jesus is coming soon, or any number of efforts to protect the powerful as blessed while ignoring the less fortunate for any number of real or imagined sins, are just some of how the Bible is used as a weapon by a certain segment of Christianity.
But I also am a Bible believing Christian. I believe that in the beginning, God created; the how and the time-frame are immaterial. I believe that Ex. 22:21-22, Deut. 10:16-18, Amos 5:24, Jonah 4:10-11, Micah 6:8, Matt. 22:34-40, Matt. 25:31-46, Luke 2:7, John 10:16, Acts 10:9-34, Gal. 3:28, 1 John 4:16b-21, Rev. 7:9, and Rev. 22:1-2 (among others) are just as valid today as when they were written. I believe that the Bible is not to be used as a weapon to tear down, abuse, and cast out, but that it is to be used as a tool to build up, heal, and restore. And I believe that the Bible is not only a record of how communities of faith have responded to the presence and activity of God in their midst, but that it also challenges us to live in faithful relationships with God and others in the here and now.
We are a Bible believing church. It's up to us to cut through all the noise and help people understand that that isn't a bad thing.