As I’ve gotten older and studied the Bible more, I’ve grown skeptical about how factual it really is. Don’t get me wrong, I affirm that the Bible is God-breathed. But I believe that it’s ok if God-breathed and factual are two different things.
The most obvious example of this for me is found in the first chapter of the first book of the Bible. Now, I don’t know if the world was actually created in six, 24-hour days or not. I’m not saying it’s not possible or that God didn’t, I’m just saying I’m not sure. And if this story isn’t absolutely factual, I’m ok with it. I don’t think the point of the story is to be found in the way God created, but simply that He created and found it to be good.
Then we have a story like Nehemiah’s, the man who rebuilt the walls surrounding Jerusalem. Based on my limited understanding, I think this is probably a fairly factual account of what Nehemiah did. From this story I get both a historical picture of how the walls were rebuilt and a valuable lesson in leadership.
It could be argued that I’m picking and choosing what to take literally and what I’m viewing as allegory. In my defense, I’m trying (though perhaps not wholly succeeding) to not be arbitrary with my choices. I look to scholars much smarter than I to frame these decisions. However, I’m not sure picking and choosing is worse than accepting all of scripture or none of it as factual – both are a choice that require a leap of faith and some rational reasoning.
I don’t think scripture has to be factual to be true. Just as an example, The Chronicles of Narnia books aren’t factual. But that doesn’t mean the lessons gleaned from them aren’t based in truth. I learn about sacrifice, awe, humility and grace – lessons worth learning. And that’s the point of the books.
Is it possible that some of the books in the Bible could be read with the same perspective?
I’ll bet this post will require a clarification post too.