By Kristen Johnson
Reverend Adam Hamilton’s book Making Sense of the Bible is a comprehensive, easy-to-understand, compelling document about what the Bible actually is. As one who was raised in the Church, and has been filled with doubts and questions throughout most of my life about the Bible, I finished the book feeling inspired, encouraged, and most of all, that my questions and concerns do not make me a heretic.
I admit to being somewhat of a “Doubting Thomas” at times, which I doubt is all that uncommon. This book really, really helped me. Reverend Hamilton discusses a wide variety of issues in the book, but there were a few that really spoke to me and helped strengthen my faith:
Books of the Bible: The author spent quite a lot of time discussing the “how” and “why” of which books made it into the final versions of the Old and New Testaments. It was very interesting to read about the different criteria used and the how and why of scholars and what may have been their thinking as to why Protestants, Catholics, and others view some books as scripture and others as not, etc. In particular, I really enjoyed the “Old Testament in 15 minutes” chapter, because I have often found the Old Testament to be confusing, contradictory to the message of Jesus, and violent.
Inerrancy and Infallibility of the Bible: I really, really enjoyed the author’s discussion of why he feels that the Bible is not necessarily completely “inspired” and that it takes into account human authors. (I realize in agreeing with him that I will likely be cutting off family ties….okay, maybe not that bad, but I’ll be labeled a heretic for sure.) Basically, we are looking at the message of Jesus as our hope for salvation, grace, and our way of living (serving our neighbors, forgiving people, loving our enemies, etc.) It’s okay to think that human authors certainly got it wrong when they ascribed genocide, slavery, rape, subjugation of women, etc. to inspired of God.
Evolution, Noah’s Ark, the Garden of Eden: I deeply value the author’s discussion of the reality of science and the fact that the Bible is not intended to be a historical or scientific document. The authors of the sections of the Bible who discussed things like how the earth was created, and stories about Noah and the Garden of Eden were looking through a lens of the knowledge they had at the time. Also, it’s important to look for the message behind stories like Noah and the Ark, and Adam and Eve, and not the historicity of such events. What do the authors of these stories want us to learn? How can we better understand God and how we are to live from reading from these stories? Arguing over whether or not Noah actually had an Ark, or whether or not Adam and Eve actually existed are counterproductive and beyond the point.
Paul and his letters: I’ve always been confused by some of the things I’ve read in Paul’s letters (view of homosexuality, subjugation of women, slavery, etc.) and I’ve often wondered how his letters became seen as “inspired” and “scripture.” The truth is that we are reading somebody else’s mail, according to Reverend Hamilton, and we have to read it through the lens of Paul’s time. We also need to consider the fact that he likely never intended for his words to become canon. We can certainly learn from the advice he gave to congregations in the early formation of the Church, but again, we need to always view every book through the lens of what we can learn from the message of Jesus.
On that note, the historicity of the gospels, the multitudes of people who were witnesses to his miracles and resurrection, and the people who were willing to die (as pointed out by Reverend Hamilton) absolutely sealed in my mind that Jesus really is the Messiah, our Savior, and exactly who the Bible says He is.
Thank you to Reverend Hamilton for answering some questions that I have struggled with for at least 40 years. And, thank you for helping me to understand that to question something, to have doubts, can actually help cement in my mind the realness of our Savior and His message.
Serve all with love.
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