Look, the book itself is only a book. It isn't the book that is holy but the words in it; the meaning and the eternal power of those words are holy, not the paper and ink. Swearing on this block of paper, as they do in courtrooms all over America, is completely wrongheaded and anti-scriptural. Conservatives using this book to front their political agenda are patently anti-Christian. God's Holy Word is not a political weapon or a tool of fascist oppression. People who hate, who exude hate in most everything they do, shouldn't be holding it up as their standard. These days, people prostitute the bible to mean all things for all causes. But the scriptures were never, ever, intended to be used that way. The bible, simply, reveals God to us.
That's its purpose. It's only mission, to illustrate God in a
way we can understand. It's not as simple as meeting a guy on
the street, "Joe? This is Fred." God is a word we use to
describe the indescribable, a concept far beyond human reason
and human understanding. The bible is not an encyclopedia. It is
not a complete record. It does not contain every word Jesus ever
spoke or every single thing Moses ever did. People looking for a
complete record, or looking to argue historical minutiae, are
wasting their time with the bible. Holding it up as a complete
historical record is a distortion of its purpose. If you are
seeking answers, earnestly questioning and wanting to draw
nearer to God, the bible can help. If you have already decided
there is no God and are looking for the bible to change your
mind, you will likely come away unconvinced.
Theologian Charles C. Ryrie describes the Holy Bible as the progressive and orderly self-revelation of God. It is a living story, an eternal work, that tells us Who God is. Using it for any other purpose will not work. People historically try and use the bible for purposes for which the scriptures were never intended. These days, more often than not, people use the bible as a political tool, and gullible people who do not understand God's Word or its purpose, fall for it. Others throw their hands up, dismissing the bible or blaming it because it doesn't do what we want it to do. Conservative Christians like to hold the bible up as a moral standard and impose cafeteria choices from Leviticus as ballot initiatives used to force people to live lifestyles these conservatives approve of.
The bible does not hold up any moral standard whatsoever. The bible is, literally, the orderly and progressive self-revelation of God. It proclaims the truth of God’s love and the redeeming power of Jesus Christ. Our sense of morality is the product of our decision to accept or reject that truth. Different people are at different stages of spirituality and discovery. The word of God was never intended to be a one-size-fits-all standard [I Cor 8:7-13]. It was not intended, for us, as a legal document. It exists for one purpose only: to reveal God to us. The more we allow Christ into our hearts, the more decisions we’ll make that please Him.
You'd think God would have made the thing easier to read. A lot of people try and start in Genesis and read through Revelation. Most folks I know usually give up somewhere in Numbers, which is really boring. The bible is not a novel. Not arranged in chronological order. it is organized into sections covering history, law, poetry, prophecy. The Old Testament was carefully preserved by the Jewish people and organized mainly so that Jewish Priests and scholars could locate passages. It was never intended as a casual read for regular folk. was created long before there were printing presses, so the earliest manuscripts were all hand-written and preserved in synagogues. Regular, every day folk did not own bibles (or Torahs as they were called), and had to come to the temple to hear the word of God read aloud.
The New Testament had a much tougher history, much of it written on papyrus a minimum of 50 years after the death of Christ. The earliest manuscripts were copied over many times, and bits and pieces of scripture ended up here and there until a concerted effort was made around 200 AD to assemble all of these known bits and create a companion to the Jewish Torah, a new record or testament that continued the history by telling the story of the Old Testament prophecy being fulfilled in a man called Jesus. In addition, there was pastoral instruction from The Apostles Paul and Peter, James and John, and an ominous apocalyptic prophecy called The Revelation of Saint John The Divine. You can learn more about how the bible came to be by clicking here.
A Christian who does not read the Bible is just kidding himself.
But the fact is, very few Christians actually read the Bible
outside of Sunday worship. And only a fraction of those are
teens and young adults.
In our African American tradition, we've come to learn most of our spiritual teaching by oral tradition. We listen. To our parents. To our grandparents. To ministers, teachers, friends. We think we know what is in this book, a book (let's face it) many of us find boring and unappealing, with all of its thee's and thou's and wherefores and so forth. I've talked to many young people who have eventually left the church because they had questions they could not find the answers to. Questions they turned to teachers and preachers and so forth to find answers, only to be brushed off, ignored or forgotten. Frustrated, they gave up on church and, sadly, gave up on God.
Yes, there was a failure in the system somewhere. We should never be too busy to help you with your walk with God. But, ultimately, you are responsible for your own relationship with God (Philippians 2:12). The way to have a relationship with God is by talking to Him. We call that prayer. Prayer has nothing to do with public speaking. You do not have to pray in the King James. You do not have to wear a special hat or be perfect or even be holy to pray. You simply need to be you and to be honest with God, even when you don't understand Him. Even when you don't feel Him, don't feel this whole religion trip. Pray that. Say, “Father, I'm not even feeling this whole religion trip. Can you help me to know you better? Can you reveal more of Yourself to me?”
The other vital factor in developing your spiritual self is understanding God's Holy Word. We call this The Holy Bible. And all you really need to understand it is some very basic information.