Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Kill the Bible

Timothy Beal, whose recent book The Rise and Fall of the Bible seeks to deconstruct our cultures of Bibliolatry, writes in a provocative recent article:

The ninth-century Zen master Lin Chi is remembered for saying, "If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him"—meaning kill your attachment to the Buddha. Nurturing an attachment, even to the master of detachment, prevents spiritual growth.

Attachment to the cultural icon of the Bible is similarly debilitating. It's a false image, an idol. If you see it, kill it. The Bible is dead; long live the Bible. Not as the book of answers but as a library of questions, not as a wellspring of truth but as a pool of imagination, a place that hosts our explorations, rich in ambiguity, contradiction, and argument. A place that, in its failure to give clear answers and its refusal to be contained by any synopsis or conclusion, points beyond itself to mystery, which is at the heart of the life of faith...

In response, we can buy another values-added Bible and keep the dream alive. If at first we don't succeed, buy, buy again. The Bible biz is at the ready. Or we can give up on the Bible altogether. Very many do, as if it stands or falls based on how well it fits our inadequate idea of it. Or we can begin to let our attachment to that idea die.

Within the framework of a commitment to faith in Jesus Christ through the Church, I couldn't agree more. But while Beal claims the bible "canonizes contradictions" which leads to its own constant self-deconstruction and demythologization, I prefer to think of it as "inspired diversity," or "canonized conversation-" the means precisely by which the Living Spirit of God's grace preserves us from idolatry and self-delusion. For more, see my previous posts outlining theses for reading scripture, particularly theses 2, 4, 6, and 7.

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