The phrase “Bible-Believing” Christian rubs me wrong. That may be surprising for a future pastor – don’t pastors preach from the Bible? Sure do.
Look, I get the idea behind the label. It’s another separation – it’s telling people that “we are the true believers” – the ones who use this phrase. Every other Christian who doesn’t label themselves as Bible-believing must believe something else and are therefore wrong. But I think the emphasis is misdirected.
When did the label “Christian” need an additional adjective? When we started fighting over who was more right. It’s really no different than other areas of life where we use extra labels to divide and separate ourselves from the “others” – those people over there that are just so wrong while we are so right.
This focus on being right drives me nuts. Am I saying that anything goes? No. What I’m saying that we have so many people so focused on being right that any disagreement is seen as…well, evil. This isn’t new of course. For most of the last 500 or so years, Western Christianity struggled with itself over doctrinal statements and beliefs with each denomination damning the other to hell because “we are right, and your are wrong.” And not just wrong, but evil. Thankfully, this has mostly fallen away to a new understanding. It’s an understanding that each denomination has been gifted with seeing an aspect of Christianity in a certain way. For example, Lutherans value liturgy in worship and emphasize grace. Other denominations value other things. What we’re learning, finally, is that both can be right because God is bigger than human understanding and we humans only see bits and pieces of who God is. And some of us see grace more than others. Others will see another aspect of God more. This idea doesn’t dismiss differences – real doctrinal differences that exist. What it means is something deeper – when we can stop damning each other to hell, we can actually start to talk with each other to gain understanding of why others believe the way they do. Maybe we’ll learn something about God. We might not agree, but that’s ok.
More self-described fundamentalist Christians have a real problem with this. Fundamentalism sees the world through a black-and-white lens. This is true in religion, politics, and any other aspect of life. Which means “we’re right and you’re wrong” or else the only alternative is “we’re wrong and you’re right.” If those are the only two alternatives, then no wonder people would rather see the world as being right. Who wants to go through life believing that they are wrong?
But the challenge with this is that it’s extremely tiring. You are constantly in battle mode, seeking to destroy anything that could shake your faith in what you believe. If your faith is an all-or-nothing faith, then mystery is something to be fought off. Questions are dangerous. The phrase “I don’t know” is a sign of weakness. Doubt is evil. And variance can lead to all sorts of unknowns.
I see the world and God differently. I don’t know all the answers. I believe that no one knows all the answers about life or God or anything for that matter. It’s impossible. I don’t believe the Bible has all the answers either. In fact it raises plenty of questions. It’s not a book that lays out exactly what is going to happen. It’s not the script for some dystopian death and destruction end of the world movie either. It’s God word and that word is one of hope, one of renewal, one of forgiveness and one of God continually coming to creation and offering grace and love.
That’s what I believe. That’s what I see when I read the Bible. That’s my hope. That’s my faith.