Friday night I finished reading the book “Making Sense of the Bible” by Adam Hamilton. It feels like this has been a pivotal book in my faith journey. I posted the following on Facebook after reading chapter 29 which covered the topic of homosexuality.
Now, two days later, I have finished and meditated on the book a bit. In this post I will try to share more about how it impacted me.
I believe the Spirit has been teaching me a few things over the years regarding the scriptures that are affirmed and very eloquently stated in Hamilton’s book. Hamilton basically says that the scriptures can be categorized and placed into three different “buckets” (I will be paraphrasing):
- Bucket #1 are the scriptures that accurately reflect the “timeless heart and will of God” – some examples would be the scriptures like the Beatitudes and the command of Jesus to “Love God with your whole being and others as yourself.” As well as, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
- Bucket #2 are the scriptures that are the heart and will of God for a particular time. I think some examples would be the temple rituals and symbolism, and the specific miracles.
- Bucket #3 are scriptures that reflect the subjective/biased opinions of the human authors trying to apply what they thought they knew of God, their community, and their environment at the time of their writing. Examples would be of the acceptance of slavery and misogynistic views women which is obviously not and has never been the will of God, but was often the norm in biblical times.
I had quietly and privately come to the same conclusions as the above three points before reading the book but hadn’t put them into a clear framework. After reading Hamilton’s reasoning and explanation through the whole book, it felt like a gift. The weight that fell off my soul was the heap of cursing that I have received over the years from those who claim to know the scriptures, and the legalistic standard they believe the scriptures represent, better than me.
Another thing that I hadn’t ever heard from a Christian leader/author before was that the Apostle Paul would probably have balked at the thought that his personal letters to various churches would have ever become the “holy word of God.” When Paul was inspired to write those letters, there is no doubt that the Spirit had urged him to write to those churches. There is no doubt in my mind the Spirit inspired the readers of the letters on certain points. I have been inspired by quite a few of Paul’s insights in very significant ways. But Paul wrote it just like any normal person would write a spiritual message to other people they love. We know that during the process of writing we would feel the Spirit guiding us but we would always be mindful that we make mistakes.
When I read that Paul probably wouldn’t have thought that his letters would ever be considered “divine dictation,” my jaw literally dropped as I read that. It was so clear, easy, and obvious. Of course, the authors of the various books of the bible were human and doing their best. Of course, God inspired some of what they wrote, inspire us through what they wrote, and would give them/us timeless nuggets of genuine revelation. And, of course, I now believe they injected personal bias in there along with everything else. I also believe that each generation injects personal bias into how to interpret the bible.
The biblical authors are just like us. You know, human’s trying to understand and write about God. They are spirit-inspired, and quite capable of knowingly or unknowingly injecting personal bias. It’s not one or the other; it’s both.
For the remainder of last Thursday night and since the Spirit has been reminding me of the specific epiphanies and spiritually intimate moments He and I have had in our journey together over the years. He has affirmed my experiences with Him are real but in some cases I had taken His “I”nspiration and added my own narrative/bias/agenda to contextualize it. Then all of a sudden, and this is where a flood of emotions come in, I could accept the humanity of the bible. I not only see the glory of God revealed, the Divine song within the bible, I can actually relate to the biblical authors in a much deeper and powerful way. I know what it is like to have my life completely upended by experiencing God and yet still only communicate and “see through the glass darkly.”
What I also love is that Hamilton affirms that when it comes to Jesus, He is as the Gospel of John says right at the start, Jesus is the Word Of God. Jesus is the only inerrant infallible word of God and all scriptures should pass through the “colander” of Christ to determine which “bucket” they belong in. That’s exactly where the Spirit had me on this issue and to see it explained so clearly and easily was beautifully stunning.
Since finishing this book, a joy and hope I didn’t even realize had been missing for a while has been restored in a powerful way. I highly recommend “Making Sense of the Bible” by Adam Hamilton… to everyone :).