A parishioner called me one day. “I hope I’m not disturbing you,” she said.
I answered, “Not at all. I was just sitting here reading the Bible.”
“Ah,” she said. “The good book,”
“Well, yeah,” I replied. “Parts of it.”
Parts of the Bible are good. Parts are uplifting, inspiring, enlightening. But other parts can be dark and disturbing.
I own a copy of a book titled The Positive Bible, compiled by Kenneth Winston Caine. It has a lengthy subtitle, From Genesis to Revelation: Scripture that Inspires, Nurtures and Heals. It is a collection of Bible verses that, according to Caine, are “empowering, uplifting, helpful, hopeful, inspiring, and faith-building.” And what could be wrong with that?
Nothing, except that it misrepresents the actual Bible in some significant ways. For one, it ignores the negative parts of the Bible.
For another, it treats the Bible as a source of pronouncements that have no context. Let me show you what I mean. Caine’s book includes Job 8:20–21 (quoted from the “King James Version Modernized”) as one of the Bible’s positive teachings:
God will not cast away a blameless manneither will he help the evildoers:He will fill your mouth with laughingand your lips with rejoicing.
To be fair to Kenneth Winston Caine, he is not the only one who uses the Bible as a verse mine.. All too often I hear believers assert “The Bible says” and then spout some words of Scripture that have been wrenched from any meaningful context, in order to “prove” a point.
All Christians, and particularly Protestants, hold that the Bible is, in some way, authoritative. What I’m proposing is that we should, then, read the Bible in its entirety, both its positive and negative parts. And further, we should not treat the Bible as a collection of verses, but should always pay attention to context so as to understand what the Bible’s writers are actually saying.