I'm done with "The Bible"

Tradition is the democracy of the dead. It means giving a vote to the most obscure of all classes: our ancestors.
— Chesterton in his book "Orthodoxy"
David Ball    -   Original work

David Ball - Original work

Like many Christians, I am a big fan of the Bible. It has it's flaws and it has its puzzles and a deep beauty that only can be described as sacred. However I am done with "The Bible". Not the actual sacred text of my faith tradition. Like I said, I am a fan of that. What I am done with is the phrase "The Bible".

Calling it "The Bible" while technically accurate leaves little to be desired theologically. What I mean by this is that when we hear "The Bible" we hear in our heads a dead set of stories. We hear a book. Or, putting it in the negative, when we hear "The Bible" we don't hear a living story. We don't hear lives of people. We don't hear this as a collection of stories giving witness to something indescribable that the characters do not fully understand but try to put words to because words are all we have.

Perhaps a better way to talk (and in turn think) about this collection of sacred stories is to shift talking about it as "The Bible" but as the "Biblical Witness". This collection of stories are the tradition of the people of faith and, as it has been said, tradition is the vote of the dead.

When we think about the Biblical Witness this begins to reshape the way we think about the sacred stories. We begin to think of these stories like that of a witness. And, like any witness, the Biblical witness has it's own biases and perspective and even errors. It is a valuable and powerful witness to God in the Christian faith tradition but, like I have argued before, it is not the ultimate revelation of God (that is reserved for Jesus). And so it is okay to admit that the Bible may have errors or inaccuracies or contradictions. It is a witness, it is not infallible nor inerrant.

And because the Biblical witness has the same biases and perspectives that other witnesses may have, it is important to know that the UMC affirms that there are other sources of authority that we use in conjunction with the Biblical witness to better discern the will and work of God. This is why the UMC holds fast to not only the Biblical witness but also, tradition, experience and reason. 

Taken together, these four sources (perhaps we could call them the four witnesses?) are the voices we listen to in order to find what God desires and hopes and dreams. These four witnesses give us direction on how to live in right relationship with one another and with God and with ourselves. 

It may not be helpful or reasonable to stop calling it "The Bible", but is it too much to expect that we can understand the Bible as bearing a living witness to the deep mysteries of God and not to understand the Bible as a set of dead stories of the past?