In my enquiry of the origin of the Bible I made two major observations that changed the game for me.
One; The Bible is a social construct. The book is man-made. It was people that said, “let us compile many books into one Book that will be common law(s) for christians”. After this, it was people also that christened it ‘Bible’.
I did not find this fact funny at all.
It knocked the wind out of my sails, leading to a flood of questions on my mind. If the book is man-made, how could it also be divine like I had always thought? Now, this is a valid questions to have and ask. Except, of course, you want to be in denial. It is a question on the mind of many religious skeptics and agnostics. I have to say, I walked in the shoes of agnosticism, if only for a moment. I got to know firsthand why some people who used to be believers ended up being non-believers. They encountered valid questions that they could find no sufficient answers for. This made me less judgmental and more understanding of skeptics, because I realized that I was no different from them when I found out the history of my religion. I only came back into faith because God showed me kindness and gave me understanding. I did not realize the truths that got me back into faith by my own search. No. God just showed me mercy and gave me answers; I cannot take credit for any of it.
For this singular reason I want to help as many who face doubt in their faith, because I know that God took me through that process and helped me so that I could help others.
These were the simple, but profound answers that God gave me;
1.God has to use people to reach people. Something does not have to have dropped straight out of the heavenlies for it to be divine. For divinity to be revealed on earth, it will have to be contained in a human vessel. That is, divinity has to coexist with humanity; the two have to be in partnership.
2.The Book will only be as divine as the user believes it to be; the just has to live by faith. The letter kills, but the spirit gives life. The potency of the Bible is subjective. To a non-adherent of the christian faith, it is a book of historical tales. Some may see it as credible history, while others may see it as fictitious. To them it is all letter and no life. To a christian, however, because s/he believes in the book, it is life.
Now here is the twist; a christian who has not experienced the life in the letter, if they come in contact with such credible facts as these that the Bible is a man-made idea, will most likely be thrown off balance in their faith, because The Book will become no different from any other random book. And rightly so.
And that leads to something else that set me back on my feet, and a very important one. I remembered that I had in times past experienced the life of the Bible. I had seen miracles. Thanks to Pentecostalism. So my reasoning was, “Even if some things do not add up in the letter of this Book, I will not despise it. Instead I will see how I can get to the bottom of all the controversy.” That is, I decided to acknowledge the controversy, but I also did not allow my acknowledgement of it rob me of my faith. I got back into faith but not back into it the same way that I used to believe. I stopped being in denial. I stopped being naive.
This is key, because that is where it all gets interesting—and gravely so, because by this phenomenon of acknowledging or not acknowledging controversies in Christian canon, we have two extremes of imbalance;
One extreme; christians turned agnostics and/atheist; they used to believe the Bible as a strictly divine book. One day, however, they came in contact with the (seeming) inconsistencies in the letter of the Bible and because they could find no answers to, they denied its corresponding divinity altogether. They could not continue believing. The logic they follow is that once it is imperfect, it cannot also be good and/reliable. They do not see how perfect divinity and imperfect humanity can coexist in one phenomenon and still maintain authenticity.
On the other extreme we have christians who are very naive, because they seek only signs, but no wisdom. Miracles and breakthrough, but not knowledge. Christians who forget that Christ is both the power and the wisdom of God. By ‘wisdom’ I mean spirited debates/arguments of truth like Paul did in his day (Acts 17:17, 19:8-10). Many christians, today, are in denial. We ignore controversies on the pages of the Bible, even when our attention is called to them, because, “as long as I have my miracle, I am fine.”
No, we are not fine. All is not well. There is a war brewing, and it is a warfare of knowledge. It is already at our doorsteps. ‘Gay Jesus’ was merely an appetizer of the darkness to come. The enemy wants to confuse many. Oftentimes, when christians avoid controversy/questions, it is because they themselves do not know, so they try to cover up their ignorance with the ‘this is rebellion’ chant. This attitude is more common in Pentecostal settings. The orthodox, old timers usually know why they do what they are doing. Ask orthodox folk who believe women should cover their heads in prayer and they will at least show you a scripture; they will present some defense. But ask a Pentecostal about controversial doctrinal stuff that they practise and they have nothing. Ask why women put on trousers, no answer. Or ask why women preach, despite the fact that the Bible forbids it, in not one, but two scriptural verses; nothing.
The habit of ignoring due process is rife; I guess, because of the teaching of Grace and Faith. It has brought upon us the spirit of ‘anyhowness’; quick fix, quick revelations. Because the assumption is that if it is God, it must be fast and easy. If it is taking long and is not immediate, then faith and/or anointing is not working. Pentecostals do this in all aspects of life, but more alarmingly, in the study of the Bible. There is also a lot of proof texting, cherry picking, and double standards.
On the one hand everything written in some parts of the Bible is taken in in its raw form like one would crude oil taken straight from the depths of the ground without any refinement prior to use; on the other hand, some parts are ignored completely and we do as we like. And then we come out and say, “The Bible is very clear.”
No, the Bible is NOT clear just like that.
There are many complexities involved in gaining accurate understanding and interpretation of the scriptures. Theologians try to acknowledge these nuances, but Pentecostals say they are being academic with something that should be strictly spiritual; we say all one needs to understand the Bible is the anointing. Well, the Bible is a piece of literature, and its study should be academic before it is spiritual. Call it spiritual literature if you will, but it is still a piece of literature and it deserves to be handled as such. That is what it means to be diligent as a learner. Understanding the Book requires more than anointing. It is information that has first been accurately derived that one could hope to draw any corresponding accurate revelation from.
It is because of this omission that many grossly inaccurate revelations fly around in Pentecostal settings. We apply the Book without any separation of wheat from chaff, separation of methods from principles, of temporary/adhoc measures from universal standards. We often do not consider context (historical context especially), language, grammar, syntax etc. in the formulation of doctrine. This explains the mystery of how a person will work miracles and yet be exhibiting character flaws that even irreligious people won’t. The anointing causes the miracles, but the lack of accurate knowledge cannot be hidden. It is why some people who have been devout believers for so long still fall away. They never learnt how to use the law lawfully. The law is a two-edged sword which on the one hand when used lawfully would make alive, but on the other hand when used naïvely, OR with the cloak of youthful exuberance, would destroy.
I’m afraid many christians are being destroyed today as they read their Bibles. What should minister life is ministering condemnation (for the naïve) and destruction (for the exuberant youth), because the users are not applying it as they should. This was what happened to me in the narratives I shared here, here and here. The way to eternal life is indeed narrow. It takes painstaking study to understand the Bible and rightly divide its truths. The freedom we seek usually lies in the truth we have been too lazy to search out.
And that brings me to the second observation I made while studying the origin of the Bible; THE BIBLE WAS NOT WRITTEN IN ENGLISH. The letter of the Book came not in English, but in Hebrew and Greek. I cannot overstate the significance of this detail. I’ll use this analogy: just as any serious muslim scholar, irrespective of the availability of vernacular translations of the Quran, realizes the need to acquire a working knowledge of the Arabic language, so also any christian who hopes to be a diligent scholar should have the same level of commitment to the Biblical languages.
And truly, it was after I started to study the Biblical text in its original languages that I found clarity and the answers to all my questions, not only about Gender Equality, but many other doctrinal matters.
That was when my theology changed.