Write a Better Bible! challenge
A number of months ago I wrote pair of posts called Why Doesn’t God Make Things Clearer? and God and the IRS. They touched on what has become a intellectual cornerstone of my own personal transition out of evangelical Christianity, namely, “divine hiddenness” – the idea that God, if there is one, does not seemed to have made things very clear for us.
But as we say in Texas, there is more than one way to rope a steer. (Actually, I think I just made that up. But it’s pretty catchy, yeah?) Here, I’d like to make this same point a little differently, and, hopefully, more entertainingly.
So let’s start with the basics: people disagree about God. They disagree about God’s existence, and, even among those can agree on this much, they disagree about God’s alleged nature.
But how is this even possible? How can there be so many different religions, creeds, theologies, churches, sects, and denominations? Especially if God, as is alleged, wrote a book to lay it all out for us! And if he did write us a book, then why are their so many, many views about what it really means and what it tells us about this God? This state of affairs does not seem to obtain with the IRS, where the instructions for its basic form, 1040, are intricate, perhaps, but overall pretty clear. To the point: if there is one Almighty God, and this God has one single, simple message of salvation for us all, then why doesn’t he just write the damn thing down – clearly?
This is, after all, not so hard to do! Writing declarative sentences (or instructions) that are unambiguous and relatively immune to (at least gross) misinterpretation is not rare. We puny humans do it all the time: Newspaper stories. Recipes. Wikipedia. The instructions of my bottle of Tylenol. A “Hello, My Name is…” nametag. A church worship service bulletin. Most science textbooks. Professional journal articles. The posts on this site. Even – Darwin love them – evangelical Christians can write clearly; the Four Spiritual Laws booklets are straightforward and easy for anyone to understand. The Westminster Confession is, itself, a far clearer document than the Testament on which it is based.
But, I thought, how can we bring this point home? How can we demonstrate that this concatenation of legend, exposition, poetry, folk history, and pious biography that we call the Christian Bible should never be seriously taken as God’s Final Message to His Creation – precisely because such a camel of a book has all the markings of an all-too-human committee, and none of an Omnipotent Creator?
Well, why not just write it again… better?
So, I offer my Write A Better Bible! challenge. The task is to write a (short!) scripture, only this time, do it better – by which I mean, clearer. We want to demonstrate that any God worth his cherubim could effortlessly have authored a text that clearly and unmistakably tells us the facts about him and about salvation, in such a way that even the most godless monkey-loving Wiccan liberal heathen relativist can read it and get it straight. And with none of this dithering about in Aramaic wondering whether that squiggle at the end of dikaiosune makes it mean “righteousness” or “goat stew.”
I suggest one (or both) of two forms for this challenge:
One, write a short set of verses clearly explaining the Christian religion in particular. Pick your denomination/movement/sect/cult and your creed/soteriology/Christology/theology. There is only one goal: make it clear. Quality, depth, inspirational value, and multilayered meanings are not required – remember, we are not writing this so that a bunch of bleeding-heart Unitarians get a warm fuzzy; we are just trying to set the alleged facts straight.
Two (and this may be more fun): make up a religion! Anything you want! The Formless Void is your oyster. Just give us a short scripture and tell us (a) what the facts are, (b) what the rules are, and (c) make it clear. That’s the whole point of the exercise.
So: Happy In-Spiring!