If you or I were God, we would not have given humankind the Bible as it is. We would probably have constructed something less violent, more informative and, like any users' manual, a good deal less interesting.
Take the end of Paul's letter to the Christians in Rome, for instance. In Romans 15:23-32, Paul...
So why accept this passage into the canon? Why inspire it to be written?
Anyone who takes the Bible seriously has to reckon with the fact that God doesn't seem to have intended it merely as an instruction manual or text book. But there's more going on there, rather than less. It is a book about God's relationship with humanity and humanity's with God.
Any instruction manual is about ideal situations: press this and that will happen. Sometimes almost as a concession or afterthought, there's a troubleshooting section in an appendix. That's usually the only part you and I read.
The Bible is almost entirely troubleshooting appendix. As befits the God who thought up the incarnation, it's not just about How Things Should Be, it's always about How Things Are, including frustrated plans, minor defeats and lapses of judgment. This is a God who understands how messed up the world is and who is able to embrace that world nonetheless.
Dr Conrad Gempf is a lecturer in New Testament at London Bible College. He also writes for and edits the monthly webzine there.
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