Picking and choosing can be harmfulPublished 11:50am Monday, October 8, 2012
American freedom is precious and wonderful, including that of thought, speech, religion, and association. We are free, for instance, to take the Bible or not to take the Bible. If we use our freedom to take the Bible, we have the continued freedom to take the Bible any way that pleases us and suits our purposes. Our choice, moreover, is not limited to taking the whole Bible as ever we wish, because we have the civic and legal freedom to discriminate within the Bible itself. We can pick and choose in the Bible what pleases us or suits our purposes. In the other direction, we can dismiss from the Bible anything that displeases us or is counter to our purposes.
While such subjective and self-serving methods certainly are not an American tradition, there is a conspicuous and notable precedent among our nation’s founding fathers. Thomas Jefferson took a razor and literally cut out of his copy of the Bible those passages that displeased him and did not suit his personal purposes. This eviscerated volume was later printed by a publisher as “Jefferson’s Bible” (1804). (I own a copy and have read in it. There is no need to read it, because what he picked from and cut out is entirely predictable.)
Yes, America gave Jefferson that freedom, and it continues to be ours. The Constitution also gives us freedom to pick and choose from botany and zoology texts what we wish to eat, whether it is nourishing or harmful. We have this freedom, but we are then responsible and accountable for what happens to us in the way we use this freedom.
Again, we can pick and choose from the Bible what pleases us and suits our purpose. But if one is so certain as to what ought to please him or her and if the person’s purposes are proved to be good and valid, is it the Bible that is needed? Such may as well write his own book. How about, “What I Know Life To Be and Why You Should Believe Me and Not the Bible”?
If the Bible is anything, it is The Book. Not so much a book you can understand but the one Book that understands you. It is not a source for suggestions as to how you might want to live, but the Creator’s Manual for Life and Its Living.
The manual that comes with the purchase of a new vehicle was written by the engineers who designed the vehicle and the mechanics who put it together. It informs us as to how to operate and maintain their product, which we now own to use. What it states is authoritative because it was written by people who know all there is to know about what we need to operate. We can pick and choose from it, but there are consequences. Unless you are a better mechanical engineer then that company of successful engineers, you need this manual and had better believe it.
Now, you may not accept this analogy as valid. This is, again, your freedom to do. But what if the Bible is in fact the book God, through his Holy Spirit, caused godly people to put in human language that which the Creator wants his creatures to know and understand? I take it to mean this is how I must live because this is the way I was made to live.
What if the Bible is, in fact, the Word of God for humans? Can you afford to use your freedom to pick and choose as you wish in or from such a book?
Are you certain enough to risk both your present and future life on your assumption you know better than God? Can you know anything like this without knowing the Bible thoroughly so you are certain what to accept and what to reject? The people who know the Bible best do not pick and choose.
I recognize several immediate and important issues about which people are picking and choosing from the Bible, both to deprive themselves of the Bible’s resources and to their own hurt. But let’s first settle in our minds whether the Bible is authoritative. If it is not, we don’t have much need for it. If it is, we need it desperately.