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Luther Seminary's Bible Q & A

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Are there questions about the Bible that you’re afraid to ask? Well, maybe you aren’t afraid, but you have a friend, or a friend of a friend, who has some questions he’d rather not share publicly just yet.

This is the place for you, because here we’re interested in questions about the Bible. We’re especially interested in questions that stick their noses into the Bible’s business — asking about  where it came from, what it means, and what it is good for. 

Questions Welcome Here

We share a deep conviction that the Bible will not break if we ask questions about it or poke at it. Nor will questioning shatter your faith. Instead, curious, tough, and even irreverent questions can bring us into more honest conversation with the Bible.

Wait a minute, you’re thinking. Aren’t we supposed to revere the Bible? Can you do that and ask tough questions about it?

But we could ask, in response: What caused people to start assuming that questions aren’t allowed, or are disrespectful?

Problems arise when people start to revere the Bible more than they actually read it or talk about it. When the Bible becomes so revered that we can’t ask hard questions about it, it has become a dead Bible.

Why Do People Avoid the Bible?

Let’s think about the Bible’s reputation. Maybe you’ve heard this question used as a mixer or ice-breaker: Other than the Bible, what three books would you want if you were stranded on a deserted island?

It’s interesting that someone inserted the opening bit: other than the Bible. It suggests that everyone knows that you have to pick the Bible as one of your precious books, so you don’t show yourself to be a sacrilegious clod. The game’s more fun when you’re free to talk about other books — the ones you’d really read.

Face it. If you really were on that island, you’d spend more time reading The Hobbit, To Kill a Mockingbird, or How To Build a Seaworthy Raft than you would reading the Bible.

Then again, it might be good to have a sturdy Bible on hand to help you crack coconuts in half.

So, what’s the answer? What has led so many people to shy away from reading the Bible or to find it unhelpful, even as they claim to respect and honor it?

A main reason is obvious, but we might feel uncomfortable admitting it: the Bible is weird. Not only does it have those chapter and verse numbers on every page, but it isn’t even arranged in chronological order. Plus, the books have goofy names. Habakkuk? Nahum? Also, bizarre stuff happens from start to finish, and it’s full of strange customs from long ago.

Like a lot of the foods our parents used to put on our plates: We know the Bible is good for us, but we’d rather chew on something more palatable. It can maker us wonder: Is the problem with the Bible, or with us?

Maybe we’re intimidated. Maybe we fear looking stupid if we start talking about the Bible in all its weirdness, as if we suspect that everyone but us already knows what an “ebenezer” is, and why someone would want to raise one in the first place. (For the record, it’s a stone that serves as a memorial of God’s faithfulness. Great, you say, why can’t the Bible just say that?)

There’s also a deeper phobia about asking questions. Sometimes people get conditioned to think that the Bible doesn’t welcome questions. The church and other Christians can leave people feeling as though there’s something wrong with kicking the Bible’s tires.

A scene in the movie Contact puts its finger on this. Jodie Foster’s character, a scientist, describes a time as a child in Sunday school when she asked where Cain, the son of Adam and Eve, could have found the woman who became his wife. The Sunday school teacher responded by suggesting that Foster’s character spend her Sunday mornings at home from then on.

The scene insinuates that the kinds of rational, probing investigations that science embraces are not always allowed when it comes to matters of religion. Certainly some religious folk have not allowed questions—even obvious and innocent questions—that might seem to put the Bible on the defensive. Do those people worry that questions are incompatible with faith?

We wholeheartedly disagree, at least when it comes to putting common sense and curiosity to good use when we approach the Bible.

The Bible has no secrets to hide. It can handle our questions.

How Can We Help?

Here we honor questions. We also try to provide answers, and we don’t pretend that all questions have easy answers. Mostly we try to provide information and perspective, so you can see why certain questions matter.

By honoring questions, and by having fun answering them, we hope we can help you — whether you consider yourself a believer or a skeptic or someone in between — become a more intelligent, more informed reader of the Bible. We do this, not so you can win the grand prize on a quiz show, but so that you might read the Bible more, or with fresh eyes. Maybe by digging into the riches and challenges of the Bible you’ll discover more than a book worth reading. You may even encounter God in new ways.

And that wouldn’t be such a bad thing to have happen on a deserted island. Or wherever you are when you read this.

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