In her book, From Stone to Living Word, Debbie Blue begins with observations on how we, so to speak, harden the word of God into “stone.” We take something living, something inspiring, and set it in concrete.
“Life, for most of us,” she says, “is not full of clear paths and voices from heaven. Idols help to make up for that deficiency. Life is outrageous. Idols help us know how to proceed. So we form and fashion ideas, beliefs, rules to live by, ways of life, cultural codes. Idols are understandings we cling to that end up taking the place of God.” (p. 17)
She speaks of a particular form of idolatry known as bibliolatry. “It’s dangerous when people who don’t have all the absolute answers at their fingertips think they do. It’s dangerous when people believe they have access to the divine, to absolute answers, merely by opening the cover of a book. Instead of somehow inducting us into relationship with the living God, the Bible as an idol helps to uphold our ideologies, what we already know and think and believe (and provides justification for slashing and smashing what opposes that).” (p. 39)
Many people refer to “high” and “low” views of scripture. They’re theological differences, largely tied to one’s view of inerrancy. Debbie Blue’s view of scripture, that it “does not say the same thing throughout, that it contradicts itself, that it is garbled and weird,” would, by this definition, certainly qualify as a “low” view of scripture! (p. 59)
Those labels, “high” and “low” views, might seem to equate loving the Bible, despite its many crazy quirks—and even outrages—with holding that it contains no errors. (I guess I’ve betrayed my view on the matter!) In a sermon I preached in 2008, I said this: “Even though I love the Bible, to be honest, there are some scriptures that I find detestable. For example, I’m thinking of places that promote the abuse of women, not to mention places where genocide is advocated. But there is a way to help us guard ourselves, so that we don’t turn the Bible into a weapon. We can keep the life-giving word of God from becoming an instrument of death.”
Debbie Blue speaks of how we harden God’s word into stone. I spoke of how our reading becomes sick. “It is the written word which is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. But the written word can also serve the powers of death, not life. It can become a weapon. To prevent that, we need the living Word…We, too, often have sick approaches to the written word. We feel compelled to do all kinds of harm: to keep certain groups of people in their place, to wage war, to keep our eyes firmly closed. If we come first to the living Word, our sick approaches to the written word will also be healed.” We must view the written word through the lens, the eyes, of the living Word.