If you were to put a group of modern, leading evangelicals in a room and ask them to write a book about God and the church, formalizing a message to the world, I doubt you’d end up with anything like the Bible.
You probably wouldn’t tell the story of Bill Clinton having an affair, Benny Hinn faking healings and getting a divorce or Ted Haggard talking macho and homophobic and then secretly sleeping with men and using drugs. I doubt you’d talk about powerful religious figures being involved in incest, either. But that’s exactly the sort of stories we find in scripture. And not only that, but these are principal characters through which Christ lineage and God’s redemptive message are passed down through.
Write that book today and we’d likely get some specific theological statements, mapped out like math, some song lyrics, some stories that make God and his followers look good, and after each chapter, actionable steps leading to a more vibrant life in which you are happy and financially stable. In other words, you’d get modern Mormonism.
What I love about the Bible is it’s honesty. This is not a book in which authors tried to hide anything. If somebody got drunk and slept with their daughter, it’s in there. If the king of Israel had a man killed and slept with his wife, it’s in there. If somebody doubted God’s love, it’s right there in the book.
So why don’t Christian books read anything like the Bible? Can we handle the truth?
Part of the problem is ours is a religion of image. When the authors of scripture sat down to write, they weren’t writing for critics, and they didn’t care whether or not people approved, they were attempting to capture truth. And they believed telling the truth was more important than selling the truth.
So my question is, do we trust truth? And would it matter if your church shrunk because you presented the truth (in maturity and objectivity)? Would people stop reading your blog if you were honest, like the writers of scripture? And at what point do we call a white-washed style of literature lies?
But another important question is can you handle the truth? If you knew about your pastors thought life, would you still go to church? If others knew about your darkest sins, would they stay away from you? How did a book filled with such brutal honesty create an image-sensitive culture?
What do you think would happen if we stopped “spinning” the gospel, and started telling the truth? My guess is, the church would shrink, and what you’d be left with is a small core that would grow through love, acceptance and honest commitment to each other. But perhaps not.