Bible should not block path to God

Why have so many people left the church? Could it be the lack of ability to make sense of what is being taught?

I believe that the ability to see God, Christianity and the Bible in a different light will help bring people back into relationship with God, which is at the heart of Christian belief.

Biblical literalism, infallibility, historical factuality, and moral and doctrinal absolutes have crushed the efforts of many seeking a relationship with God.

Consider for a moment that the Bible is both sacred and a human product.

This is not a denial of the reality of God but an understanding that the Bible is the product of two historical communities and their responses to and understanding of God in their lives. The Bible uses language and concepts of the cultures in which its events took place.

Though many of the teachings of the Bible are relevant for us today, it was never written for us or meant to be put together as a book. Christ never said, "Write these things down;" that was our need. As a human product, the Bible is not absolute truth or God's revealed truth but relative to a time and place.

This is how our spiritual ancestors saw things, not how God sees things. The documents that make up the Bible were not sacred but became sacred, as declared by community, over the centuries.

If we can see the Bible like this, we can understand the stories of creation, the Garden, Adam and Eve, the flood, as metaphorical narrative that can be profoundly true but not literally factual. A Catholic priest once said: "The Bible is true and some of it happened." Did God create the Earth in six actual days? Does it matter? The truth is: God created.

A contemporary example would be Garrison Keillor's monologues in the News from Lake Wobegon. We know that the stories are made up but we can hear the truth in them. We are moved and often times recognize ourselves or people that we know in the story. Are they factual? No. Is there truth in them? Yes.

Christian life is about a relationship with God that transforms life today. How you understand the Bible should never be a wall or stumbling block in the path of that relationship.

Lt. Col. Mark Thompson is a United Methodist pastor and a chaplain at Fort Gordon.

More