There was a terrible, and thoroughly justifiable, outcry when Newsweek published Kurt Eichenwald’s diatribe against the Bible. His intention is to diminish the Bible and press it into a mold that fits his secular worldview. In so doing, he will achieve the secular goal of confining religion to a sacred box. He is tired of people living their faith where he has to see it. He is tired of Christian behavior and Christian insistence on morality based on absolute truth. He does not want Christians to be salt and light in the world, because if they are, the world will change in ways Kurt Eichenwald finds unsettling.
He did, however, say one thing that was very important. It is not entirely true, but there is a grain of truth in his statement toward the end of his article:
If Christians truly want to treat the New Testament as the foundation of the religion, they have to know it. Too many of them seem to read John Grisham novels with greater care than they apply to the book they consider to be the most important document in the world.
Could this statement be true? Are Christians guilty of treating the Bible like a coffee table book they admire and appreciate but do not really know? Eichman’s statement requires that Christians call their faith a religion, a term not quite relevant to our faith. Yet it is disturbing to think that even Christians who take offense at his assault might not read the Bible with as much enthusiasm as they show for the latest NYT best-seller.
Just a week ago, I struck up a conversation with a visitor at church during coffee hour. She was eager to talk about how much she loved the Bible after she read it in the form of The Story. She excitedly showed me the Bible she carries everywhere in her purse. However, when I invited her to participate in the pastor’s Bible study that was about to begin, she looked shocked and exclaimed, “Now? Right this minute?” She nervously stuffed her Bible back into her purse and hurried out the door.
Christians try to justify their ignorance of the Bible in many different ways. Eichenwald slices through all those reasons saying, “If Christians truly want to treat the New Testament as the foundation of the religion, they have to know it.” Of course, Eichenwald is wrong to call the New Testament the foundation of the religion, because Christ is our foundation, our core, the center of everything. So you, the reader, can take your stand on the error of his statement if you want to. However, he has seen and heard the phrase sola Scriptura. He knows that we believe that the Bible is our guide for faith and life. Eichenwald says that Christians make claims the Bible does not substantiate. You really cannot expect much else of a secular thinker. However, in order to make his argument, he spent a lot of time with the Bible. He is deeply committed to the need to destroy the credibility of the Bible in the eyes of the public.
How should Christians respond to this assault?
The answer is in the Bible. Christians who want to address what Eichenwald is trying to do must not imitate him; they must imitate Christ. They must not be drawn into an intellectual argument structured on Eichenwald’s battle plan. Eichenwald’s article was inspired and motivated by Satan and Satan’s objectives. To argue over jots and tittles serves Satan’s purposes beautifully. Rather than that, Christians must demonstrate intimate knowledge of the Bible and its teachings, and they must rely on a Teacher not accessible to Eichenwald: the Holy Spirit.
Bible study is, for Christians, a lifelong discipline tightly integrated with prayer. Christians have an obligation not to shut down their minds when they study, but mind and body must, nevertheless, submit to the guidance and inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Too many Christians fail to make time for daily prayer and Bible study due to the misconception that they do not have enough time for it. They may even feel that they do not understand it. They might think that Kurt Eichenwald is right in his accusation. They might really believe that they have better luck understanding John Grisham than the apostle John.
They are wrong on all points.
They do have time.
They can understand.
The Bible is for everyone.
Many years ago, my life was collapsing around me. I had a nagging and ever-increasing feeling that I was simply messing up everything. I went through a divorce. Then I remarried, and when I remarried, I suddenly had something I did not want to lose. I was praying every day that my marriage would survive and thrive, but I was praying on the run in the midst of the daily chaos. One day it became clear to me that I needed to take just five minutes for God every morning. I just wanted enough time to pray in coherent sentences.
I found a small book that fit my need perfectly. Daily Texts published by Mount Carmel Ministries provides two verses for study each day, and I thought to myself that I could surely read just two verses. I might only have five minutes, but I could read two verses. There was a daily prayer, too, which I skipped at first. I was in such a hurry!
It was not long before five minutes became ten. I read the verses and then I prayed the written prayer as my own. I found that my own words in prayer began to change. The verses made me think, and I prayed about what they said. Ten minutes became fifteen. I started writing down my own prayer growing out of the verses.
That was many years ago. Today I engage in more reading and more prayer and more real study than I ever thought I had time for back then. When I started, I could never have made so much time available. I thought I truly did not have it. Yet over the years of growing and maturing in prayer and Bible study, I have discovered that I do have time. There are still only 24 hours in my day, but I use them differently.
You may think you don’t have time for Bible study. You might even think you feel more inspired by watching a sunset than by reading about Joshua and Jericho. Well, Kurt Eichman has a point. There are Christians who really do not know what is in the Bible, and that is sad, because the Bible is God’s gift to us. In the Bible, we meet Christ. We learn what he did, what he said, and what he wants of us. We put ourselves in a position to be transformed. Some of the hurtful things Eichman says grow out of the behavior of people who claim knowledge of the Bible without demonstrating knowledge of Christ.
It is possible that I still don’t meet Kurt Eichman’s definition of a real Christian or a real Bible scholar. That doesn’t bother me. I do not worry that he might consider me biblically illiterate. I have no ambition to be able to argue better than he does. My ambition is to know Christ and to be more like Him. The greatest progress I have ever made toward that goal has grown out of time spent in prayerful Bible study. That is the real answer to Kurt Eichman’s point.
By Katherine Harms, author of Oceans of Love available on Kindle.
Photo Courtesy of Bing images, License: free to share and use.