Over the past several months we've been doing a lot of deconstruction work with the Bible on my blog, discussing how an unquestioning reading of Scripture leads to a lot of hurt. It's an important conversation to have, one motivated by compassion. Because we care about people, and because we love the Bible, we need to confront a way of reading that justifies harm. Still, even so, it's hard. It takes a toll because, even though we believe we are doing something good, it cuts away at our old beliefs in the process and that means it cuts us. After doing that kind of hard deconstructive work it can feel like there's nothing left to stand on.
Brian McLaren recently compared this process of deconstruction to peeling an onion,
"Every new conception of God necessarily requires doubting or rejecting the prevailing conception of God ... For many, the process is like peeling an onion. First they lost faith in the 6-day creationist god, then in the bible-dictation god, then in the male-supremacy god, then in the european-supremacy/western-civilization/colonialist god, then in the anti-gay god, ... and eventually, every layer of the onion is peeled away and one is left with nothing, but maybe some tears.
"The fear of being left with nothing leaves many people desperately afraid to question anything, which might be a good definition of fundamentalism. ... The question, I think, is this: what happens after one peels away the onion and faces the possibility that there is nothing left?"With the Bible in particular the question we are left with in the end boils down to this: After we strip away the hurtful unquestioning way of reading the Bible, what does it then mean to read Scripture as scripture? Once we lose the "God said it and that settles it" approach, in what sense can we say the Bible is inspired if that doesn't mean "everything it says should be followed without question"? Are we left with seeing it as just a "human book" or is there a way to find God in there, just as we find God amongst the mess of our own broken lives and world?
Related: Have We Misread the Bible?
Jesus said that all of the law and prophets hang on two commandments: Love God, and love others as you love yourself. That's not just a summary, it's the very aim of Scripture itself:
The Bible is intended to lead us to love God, others, and ourselves.
That's the ultimate aim and purpose of the Bible as Jesus saw it. If we are reading in a way that leads us away from love, then we are quite simply reading wrong. That was the mistake of the Pharisees, and continues to be the mistake of many Christians today. If we see that our interpretation is causing hurt, we need to pay attention and make a course correction.
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