What would you do if I told you that every single documentary you’ve ever watched, every autobiography/biography you’ve ever read, every biopic you’ve seen on television or in theatres – every single one – was pointing towards something? Towards the same something? Yet despite this grand purpose, the documentary didn’t flawlessly depict the story it covered- because it wasn’t meant to. And we know this. And we’re okay with it. The point was to draw our attention to something that really happened, see it in a new light, ask better questions, and perhaps (gasp) conduct some research of our own. Same with autobiographies/biographies and biopics- we are well aware that even though the STORY is true, the rendering is likely considerably less so. Which is totally fine (to an extent).
Our mythologies and our fictions dutifully inform us that something doesn’t have to actually be true, in order to transmit truth. In other words…
Reality is not a requirement for revelation.
So imagine the power potential when the story IS real? When it actually happened. That’s why we graft to the depictions- written or filmed- of some of humanity’s greatest heroes. Because we know that, even though the rendering might be a little skewed, what it’s ABOUT remains unimpeded. And that all these stories, singularly and collectively, are pointing to something. They’re uncovering something. They’re invoking the engine of inspiration for something.
“…Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour to pray. And he became hungry and wanted something to eat, but while they were preparing it, he fell into a trance and saw the heavens opened and something like a great sheet descending, being let down by its four corners upon the earth. In it were all kinds of animals and reptiles and birds of the air. And there came a voice to him: ‘Rise, Peter; kill and eat.‘ But Peter said, ‘By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.’ And the voice came to him again a second time, ‘What God has made clean, do not call common [unclean].‘” -Acts 10:9-15, brackets added
Of course, this was about how Jesus had come for everybody (not just the Jews) and God was prodding Peter to ditch his elitist attitude.
But there’s a wider lens we can fit onto this here.
The title of Rob Bell’s latest book is:
He has systematically deconstructed, not the Bible, but perspective about the Bible. Rob has arrested attention away from what people WANT the Bible to be, insisting on letting it be what it is. A collection of stories pointing towards the same something.
Historically grounded? Absolutely.
Perfectly depicted? Absolutely not.
Does that diminish it anyway? Not in the slightest.
The Bible is an expansive library of various texts, detailing historical narratives from the viewpoint of many participants [largely] belonging to a particular tribe of people. It is a stylistically diverse expression of how God has interacted with humanity, transforming it (humanity) back into the image from which it was wrought (God’s), along the way. It is divinely inspired; humanly explained.
Is the Bible inerrant?
You’re asking the wrong question.
The typical approach to engaging the Bible is with a demand for unblemished perfection and, failing to encounter such, denouncing it as unfit, a sham, an elaborate shenanigan. In other words… unclean (irony here being that if it was so sublimely utopian, it would be far outside the gravity well of our finite minds and marred capabilities of comprehension). And Rob’s point is that to approach the Bible in that fashion is to MISS the point, because the Bible itself is pointing to something. Like the documentaries, autobiographies/biographies, and biopics of today, the Bible is pointing to something… uncovering something… invoking the engine of inspiration for something…
Because a conversation about humans invariably elicits a conversation about God, because the two are inextricably intertwined. What Rob Bell has gifted us with, then, is a Bible based impetus to ask better questions. What is this for? Why was it written? What was happening when it was written? Why was this written and not another thing? Why was this included and not that? What is the bigger story here?
When we engage the Bible- and even beyond that, life- based on what it is, we then gain power to unlock all that it can be. Between the pages of this dynamic book lie all the potency and relevancy the Church is desperately after and in need of. It opens up a whole world of spiritually vibrant human living, because- of course- nothing is more powerful than a story that is truly allowed to live.
Don’t be so quick to deem it unclean.
Let the Bible live.
Because it is indeed alive.
“Don’t panic when the room spins, because you’ve seen something real and life-giving and beautiful and good and hopeful that doesn’t fit in any of your boxes. It’s okay. You’re not the first. That’s how it works. That’s how we grow.” –Rob Bell
** ** **
I had the opportunity to meet Rob Bell actually (where he complimented me on my shirt, high five to me!) when he came to The Last Bookstore in Los Angeles on one of his tour stops when the book was initially released. When I got up to him, I asked him if he had any daily routines, anything he did to fuel his day.
You know what he said?
“When I’m at home, with my kids, I make a big breakfast. And we eat it on china plates. Everybody always wants to save the china for special occasions, but every morning is a special occasion. Doing that fills me with gratitude; and when you’re filled with gratitude you’re empowered to do everything else.”
Happy trails my friends.
Ask better questions,
Do interesting things,
Live your best story possible,
Keep your wings up.
Joshua Evans is a prolific writer and sci-fi/fantasy enthusiast who believes story is central to everything and that mythology can change the world. He currently hosts two youtube shows- The Truth About Superheroes and Comic of the Week, as well as runs a short story blogsite on medium as The Story Junkie. If you would like to further be a part of his cosmic psyche, you can join him on Twitter and Instagram or simply subscribe to this blog… and remember- sharing is caring! Cheers!