“We might not like it, but it’s in the Bible, so…”

I’m very much disturbed to see how often it is that Christians are so devoutly interested in upholding their scriptures that they don’t mind if either God or neighbor gets black and blue in the process.

The trick to being an evangelical these days seems to be the willingness to maintain that evil is not necessarily evil when it comes to God. Besmirching His character under the ironic cover of defending God, what passes for good Christian apologetics is actually much more of a defense of prized doctrines such as inerrancy or Augustinian/Reformed soteriology than the only thing worth defending, viz. God’s character. Defending both our carefully constructed doctrines and God’s character cannot always be done simultaneously because they are often at loggerheads (or else many popular apologists would be without a job). Slick, ear-tickling apologetics serve the much-in-demand function of reassuring people that the Bible is everything they think it needs to be in order for their faith to remain comfortable and unquestionable.

Indeed, it is difficult to imagine a more successful result if someone were consciously trying to relieve Christians of their responsibility to grow up into mature men and women of God. Unlike what I wanted to believe long ago, I do not find it so easy to believe that the truth can be discerned by looking for “that than which nothing more counterintuitive can be conceived.” Now I am convinced that we need to be willing to question things that conflict with our conscience. In some cases, we may have to disagree with Scripture; in many others, we may find that we have simply been forcing something unnatural onto the text.

Regarding the atrocities of the Canaanite conquest: do you think it’s better to worship a God whose morality requires exceptions and redefinitions of key concepts than to live with the uncertainty that perhaps even the biblical authors were not fully aware of the depths of God’s grace? Are you content to excuse even the worst charges against God if by any means it vindicates your Bible and the comfortable theological confidence it gives you?

Regarding the destiny of unbelievers: are you willing to accept lying down the damnation of your unbelieving brothers and sisters, shrugging it off with a mere, “Like it or not, that’s what the Bible says”? Forgetting the examples of Moses and Paul, are you content to cling to that ill-founded defense in assurance that your own fate is secured? Search your heart: are you nursing a strong prejudice against the idea of inclusivistic or universalistic Christianity in order to ensure the relevance of your religion’s special claims? I beg you to reconsider your priorities. As with the brutalities described in the Old Testament, if the Bible truly does unequivocally aver that some souls can never be recovered (which I doubt), it should be the fervent hope of every lover of God that the Bible is wrong about it. Where is the passion for what is right and compassionate that motivated the characters of Job, Abraham, Moses, the prophets, and Paul to contend with their Maker over their understanding of His words? “The Bible says it” simply isn’t good enough.

I’ll be blunt: Holy Scripture or “historic, orthodox” doctrines notwithstanding, the only way God is worth worshiping is if He’s good and loving through and through. I will not subjugate love to scarcely warranted glory or petty retribution disguised as justice. My faith is in a God whose soul is more lovely than ours, who has a higher, more wholesome sense of love and justice than we are able to walk in as humans. My hope is built on nothing less than this!

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