For a good read, you can’t beat the Bible | AspenTimes.com

For a good read, you can’t beat the Bible

Roger Marolt

Here’s a revelation for you: The Bible is an incredible literary work. I discovered this only recently when I picked it up and began reading it for the first time. I’ve been a churchgoer all of my life, so the Gospels are familiar to me. I picked up many of the Old Testament stories in their adapted children’s versions at Sunday school. And, I’ve seen Charlton Heston in “The Ten Commandments” about a dozen times, so I’ve always felt like I had a handle on this stuff without actually having to read it.So, I was surprised when I found myself turning the sacred pages a few weeks ago after passing out copies to my sixth-grade religious education class. (Here, the astute reader has undoubtedly picked up on what appears to be an atrocious inconsistency. I may be the only Sunday school teacher in history who has never read the Bible – and doesn’t lie about it.) I couldn’t put it down. I took it home and continued to read. I’ll read it today. I’ll still be reading it a year from now! The Bible is a compilation of great writing.How do I know this? Well, I like to read. What else can I tell you? I consider writing to be exemplary if I’m compelled to reread passages over again, either because I don’t quite get it when I know an important insight is there, or I can’t believe how clearly the author expresses something that I am only able to feel. The Bible passes these tests. If you put into context the age of the work, it becomes exponentially more extraordinary. In addition, there is no filler in the Bible. Although it may not be obvious why, we can presume every passage in it to be important. It is a compilation of works painstakingly compressed from countless texts in three different languages by many writers over a period of centuries. It’s been reviewed a few times. Contrary to popular belief, the Bible was not underwritten by right-wing zealots promoting tax cuts for the righteous, wars-for-oil deals, and fundamentalism as a basis for law. The Bible was written by some of the most learned people from millenniums past. Their combined work has survived not only time, but the scrutiny of numerous civilizations and cultures, as well. Its success in being passed down cannot be fully attributed to Catholic guilt, which became prevalent centuries after the first edition was published.OK, so here’s revelation No. 2, for which many readers will insist that I must be stoned or, at the very least, burned at the stake for making: Not everything in the Bible is true.How am I privy to this blasphemy? It’s simple; the greatest works of literature are not historical accounts. The true masterpieces are the products of writers’ creative genius made manifest by implementing literary devices (i.e. fiction). There is little reason to believe that the greatest book ever written should vary from this tried and true formula. As every avid reader knows, there is more truth in good fiction than in even the best autobiography. In order to achieve worldwide acceptance, and meet projected sales numbers, the Bible had to be entertaining while maintaining its ability to provoke meaningful thought. Above all, it is intended to be a spiritual guide for our lives, without the aid of illustrations or graphs. That’s a tall order that a history book couldn’t fulfill.Yes, it is God’s word. But, don’t forget the small fact that it was written by man. Two great gifts that God gave human beings are intellect and creativity. All of us relate to these characteristics. If He inspired the best authors to write his story, don’t you think he wanted them to employ these talents? This is not to say that there aren’t true historical accounts in the Bible. There are. But, there is plenty of artistic license taken, too. As it was inspired by God, every word in the Bible reveals truth, but it does not have to be literally true to accomplish this. Even Jesus spoke in parables.Now, you want to know where I’m going with all of this. Well, let’s talk about intelligent design versus evolution. The fact is that the Bible devotes all of about two paragraphs to God’s creation of man. That’s it! Out of 1,500 pages of two-point Arial font, the details of our origin take up about a hundred words. If you want to fight for the right to take five minutes of classroom time to read the entire account from the Bible, as far as I’m concerned, knock yourself out. But, consider this first: Don’t you suppose God, knowing full well the limited scientific base with which the author of Genesis was working, several thousand years before Darwin’s “Origin of the Species” evolved, said something along the lines of: “Look, if I tell you how humans really came into being, you’d have no idea what I’m talking about. And, even if I took the pains to explain it to you, nobody else would get it. Folks might even take you for some kind of crackpot and the success of this whole project would be jeopardized. Here’s what everybody needs to know: I’m responsible. The rest is called faith and we’ll talk lots about that later. We’re not re-writing this stuff in the future, either. As people learn more, they’ll fill in the blanks.” Go ahead, prove me wrong. So, truly what’s the issue about creationism versus evolution? It doesn’t appear to be an either/or situation. They each imperfectly address the unexplained spark of a moment when we became the only rationally thinking (read: calculating, argumentative, and stubborn) beings in existence, stated in the contexts of two entirely different time periods. Let me give you the Cliff’s Notes version: They are different editions of the same dang thing! The most incredible miracle is that God created the universe to function with a meticulous and unerring order. Things do not happen willy-nilly. That’s for our benefit, not his. It gives us comfort to know that our existence did not come about randomly. It’s about trust. The more we learn, the more we believe that nothing defies the natural laws that he created, ever! In our uncertain lives, it’s the certainty of natural law that gives us confidence in God’s very existence. For many, this is the unprovable proof. Thousands of years ago when humans were struggling with the concepts of fire and wheels, a scientific explanation of creation didn’t offer much hope. In the age of macroscopic quantum phenomenon, it does. In this way, the Bible is a book for the ages. Are you still unconvinced that it’s not a great literary work? Roger Marolt looks at the apes in the zoo and wonders how he got so weak. He’s evolving at roger@maroltllp.com

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