This blog records my transition from the Churches of Christ to Eastern Orthodoxy.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Self-Appointed Editors of the Bible

Apparently, Ian McKellan has a habit of editing the Bibles in the drawers of hotel rooms where he stays.  He rips out the pages which contain condemnations of homosexuality.  He says it's the difference between throwing away just those parts versus throwing away the whole Bible.   i think the fact that Mr. McKellan (one of my very favorite actors, by the way) feels compelled to physically remove certain passages from the Bible is psychologically interesting and suggestive, but i won't dwell on it.

But it is a prompt for a broader question.  Do we feel compelled to ignore certain scriptures?  Do we try to avoid ever reading or hearing or talking about certain passages of scripture?  Are there certain verses we wish God would've never included in the Bible?  Are there certain passages that we would feel it inappropriate to read aloud in a worship service?  Do we aim to avoid reading aloud certain scriptures in worship services because we fear the reaction of visitors? 

Why would we be picky and choosy about which bits of the Bible we will or won't expose ourselves to?  Perhaps it's because we don't accept the content of those passages--we disagree with what scripture says about that topic.  Perhaps it's because even though when push comes to shove we accept the content of those passages, we still find it unpleasant and don't want to be reminded of the obligations that passage puts on our shoulders or the shoulders of others.  Perhaps it's because even though we believe the content of those passages, the views expressed are wildly unpopular in our culture.

(1)  Who are we to decide that certain scriptures are not worthy of our assent, acceptance, and obedience?   If we get to pick and choose where God gets to tell us what to think or do, then who's really the 'god' in that arrangement?  If we refuse to accept parts of the Bible, then what really serves as the final court of appeals for us--God's word, or our own preferences/opinions? 

(2) Why would we avoid reminding ourselves about what God expects of us or teaches us to think?  Our parents told us we needed to eat our vegetables (for me, it was sweet potatoes and asparagus that they practically had to threaten me before i'd finish them) and it was unpleasant because those vegetables didn't always taste very good.  But aren't we the better for having eaten them?  We both acquired the immediate health benefits from eating them, we trained ourselves to eat things even unpleasurable things when they benefit us, and we may even have learned to like them (i totally love asparagus now by the way).  Our parents weren't trying to ruin our lives or hurt us, nor did they enjoy reveling in torturing us with disgust.   They were trying to love us and take care of us and see to it that we got what we really needed.  God is doing no different in scripture by telling us the hard things we need to hear.  God isn't trying to make things unpleasant or uncomfortable just for the sake of it.  God always has our best interests at heart.  Thus, it can only be to our benefit to learn to "eat our veggies" and make ourselves read even the 'unpleasant' parts of scripture.

(3)  Why would we ever be ashamed of God's words?  Why would we ever be so concerned about impressing non-believers that we would try to hide or cover up who our God really is and what He's really said?  Think about it, should an unbeliever be impressed by a God Whose words His children are (at least partially) ashamed of?  If we will sacrifice reading/talking about parts of the Bible for the sake of the comfort of visitors, then who or what is really the object of honor/worship at that point?


Tim Archer said...

Though we may not physically remove passages, the way we pick and choose which passages to read often serves the same purpose.

Many people in our brotherhood know the names of Nadab and Abihu, but if you mention Eleazar and Ithamar, they give you a blank look. Same chapter. Same family. The story doesn't fit our purposes, so we leave it out.

We've got to learn to read the whole thing.

Grace and peace,
Tim Archer

Terry said...

I must admit that I'm guilty. While reading through the Bible with my son before bedtime, I skipped either Genesis 34 or 38--I can't remember which one. I didn't feel comfortable with the possible questions my 6-year old son could raise. It's not that I'm ashamed of those passages; it's just that I'm not sure that I want to expose my son to them until he is a little older.

reborn1995 said...


When i was writing this, i imagined a worship service where there was no sermon or devo or any commentary at all, just scripture readings; and all the readings covered all the passages dealing with divorce and remarriage. How would people react? i doubt anyone would say it was their "favorite" worship service. Truth is, i think we act "scared" of a lot of passages and deal with that fear through avoidance. i think that will only serve to galvanize those fears.


reborn1995 said...


(i take it you're referring to the incident between Judah and Tamar.) i go back and forth on the same thing. i don't want my son to see too much at an early age when it comes to movies or tv or whatever. But i find it really hard to think that God would say something *bad* for my son. i feel your intuitions, bro, but i'm still not super sure what to do about them.


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