My sister teaches a class of seventh graders about the Bible.
Their parents make them come. They barely blink or smile until class is over, and then they bat each others’ eyes out while shoving arms into coat sleeves and bolting out the door as fast as they can.
The way they see it, that book is boring.
To spark their interest, my sister asked them to compare Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John’s writing about Jesus coming into Jerusalem one day.
The four men’s accounts differ: was it one donkey or a donkey plus a colt? Palm branches on the road or just cloaks? Did Jesus get the animal or have one of his crew fetch it?
The way the kids see it, some of the guys got their stories wrong.
The way I see it, somebody had a crummy editor. Who publishes a book with four eyewitness views side by side only to have basic details not match up?
I remember The Da Vinci Code loosely asserted that religious people back in the day took out the messiest writings of the Bible. As if the rendition we’re left with is so buttoned up!
These seventh graders would like to pin down the main character of this Bible—God. There’s a sola scriptura theory that says pinning down this God is possible from the scripture alone.
The problem with that it is personal. The God of this book is personal. He reacts differently depending on the person before Him.
So even if we sola scriptura the plotlines, we meet a God who is sometimes fast but sometimes slow, loud but sometimes still, unbending and then … and then … “Return to me, and I will…”.
Isn’t He personal still?
A Bible teacher once said that God no longer personally reaches out to people because we’ve become such a sinful generation. That sounded to me like another famous quote, “Our youth now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt … disrespect …” (by Socrates).
Sinfulness seems to be steady as she goes, whatever century we pick.
And people do experience miracles and personal God interactions. They write books about it.
Reasonably, it’s hard to tell which are wacky and which are real. Look at God’s first best-seller—He let it go to press with four eye-witness tales that imperfectly tell a story.
The Bible’s sixty-six books do represent a God with a consistent mantra: Pick me.
Pick me. I love you. I made you. Me. Pick me.
It is scriptura, but not so sola. There’s picking, there’s choosing, there’s getting to know. Please refer to the primary resource for getting to know this God. Aaaaand that circles us right back to the Bible.
Bart Ehrlman, a scholar who outlines Bible idiosyncrasies, said in an interview that church-goers regularly ask him, “Why haven’t I heard this before?”
After running their own comparison firsthand, my sister’s seventh grade class might tell those churchgoers, “You probably started putting your coats on too early.”