Who Reveals Whom?

Does God reveal the Bible?

This is one of the greatest classical theological chicken and egg dilemmas that, . . . . No, wait. Stop. Just kidding. This was never really a dilemma.

Although, this idea was treated like a scientific truth for centuries and more. You know, the idea that God, in the heavens above, revealed the text of the Bible we have. Simple as that.

It is hard for people to wrap their minds around the notion that God did not “reveal the Bible.” Saying he does would imply we have a God in our minds who we know exists, who has certain characteristics we mentally assign to him, and who then reveals a text about Himself we call the Bible. Again, not to be beat on the same drum, but what is this if not Platonism and its eternal perfect Idea with copies of said Idea(s) here on earth (i.e., the Bible).

The consequences of this line of thinking is that, in practice, one group of people may choose to follow this Bible on their own terms, while another may draw the conclusion they can bypass the Bible and just appeal directly to God. So, the theoretical height, weight, depth, and “character traits” of the eternal God can be anything we wish them to be, again a priori, in theory.

Rather than the above, we should appreciate that it is the Bible that reveals God. Let’s repeat. The Bible reveals God, the real God, not the one set in our minds through which filter we selectively read or listen to the Bible.

One of the solutions to all of these mental gymnastics, of course, is to recognize that the Bible addresses issues outside of our conceptions of God. For example, the Scriptures address issues such as racism, war and violence, as well as the difference in social classes.

Let’s look at how racism is addressed in the Bible. It’s not done explicitly, you have to see it in how the story is told.

Of course, person A will tell you that racism is “bad,” while person B will inform you that God made humanity “in His image,” so there is really only one race, the human race. With this last point we are getting closer to understanding the mechanism of how the Scriptures functions. It’s far more powerful to say, “hey, look, there’s only one race on this pale blue dot, and that’s all of us included,” than to just label something.

Here’s an experiment: ask yourself what racism is, and how you would recognize it. Now, read this passage, ask yourself the same question and answer it again.

We are looking at a passage mentioned in a previous post. We have king David, who is fresh from using his power to seduce and appropriate another man’s wife, Bathsheba the wife of Uriah the Hittite. How often have we allowed our own assumptions in hearing or reading the Bible to cover up for us that David is a racist and not just an adulterer?

Uriah was one of the kingdom’s honorable warriors, but he was a foreigner (i..e, a Hittite). David is lounging and enjoying himself as he sent men to die in battle for his wars. This is seen by the use of the words, “In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, David sent Joab with his officers and all Israel with him; they ravaged the Ammonites, and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem (v. 1). That is, these were casual wars of choice, and like a coward David stays behind as people die.

When David learns that Bathsheba is pregnant, he calls Uriah back from the war, hoping Uriah would take the time home to go be with his wife. But Uriah is an honorable man, unlike David, and he refuses to even see his wife. Why not? “When they told David, ‘Uriah did not go down to his house,’ David said to Uriah, ‘You have just come from a journey. Why did you not go down to your house?’ Uriah said to David, ‘The ark and Israel and Judah remain in booths; and my lord Joab and the servants of my lord are camping in the open field; shall I then go to my house, to eat and to drink, and to lie with my wife? As you live, and as your soul lives, I will not do such a thing.” Honorable men are dying on the front lines, and you want me to have a romantic evening?

So, David concocts the plan to send Uriah to the front lines, where he will surely die, and does (vv. 14 -18).

It’s all so horrible, all of it. What makes it even worse is that Uriah is a foreigner, and so he was expendable. He had no established family in the kingdom, and no children. There was no social group David might have considered that would have deterred him before he seduced Bathsheba. David explicitly inquired who Bathsheba was, and when he learned her husband was a Hittite, he called for her (vv. 2-3). This horrible story is one way the Bible paints racism for us. It is a different definition than the one we are used to today, where racism is a form of a priori hate, but nonetheless this story involves the abuse of power over a minority.

Here we have it: racism as appropriating and stealing from someone or a group because you consider them expendable.

Such is the language of Scripture.


One thought on “Who Reveals Whom?

  1. Pingback: Circling Back to the Text | The Literary Liturgist

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s