Last winter Business Insider ran a blog on the top ten most read book in the world in the last 50 years. The research was based on speculation that the book 50 Shades of Gray would top the list. But no, the researchers found the Bible far outsold any other book with a whopping 3.9 million copies sold in the last 50 years. Second on the list was “quotations of Mao Tse-tung” with 820 million and Harry potter with 400 million. No book on the list was in the league never mind any competition for the Bible. Over the course of world history I imagine the Bible has no competition and has no competition for the most read book ever.
Most of us acknowledge that the Bible has been important historically. For centuries families kept their Bible in a place of honor, read it after dinner, revered it as their single book and sole authority on every question in life. Thousands of children learned to read with it. It contains the Lord’s Prayer, the Ten Commandments, the 23rd Psalm, the Garden of Eden, the Christmas and Easter Stories. You cannot read Shakespeare or Hemingway or Steinbeck without knowing the Bible.
We all acknowledge it primary place in human literature and history, but what makes it so important. That is important to consider in a world where fewer millennial's are coming to church to learn about the Bible.
One reason is that we have forgotten the importance of the Bible. We have imagined that it is old fashioned or irrelevant. The other reason is that our world has expanded to include so many books that we have shelves full of literature. We all have romance novels and historical fiction. We have mysteries and science fiction. We have history books that fill in whole gaps of time and torrents of news that comes in newspapers, blogs and social media. We have so many books we can get lost in, that the “good” book often sits on a crowded shelf, and gets easily overlooked.
The other problem with the Bible is that it is not all that easy to understand. There are many myths about the Bible.
Many fundamentalists will tell you that you have to read the Bible literally. But that is a very naive way to look at a book whose stories are 2500 years old and based on current events and conditions in Middle East. Who can possibly understand what they might have meant literally without a historian by their side.
Some people advocate reading the Bible cover to cover. That is like going to a library and doing the books shelf by shelf. The Bible, like the library was not set up to be read this way.
Some people believe you should read the Bible without questioning. They argue that we have no business second guessing God and to ask questions about the Bible is an affront, somehow. But we believe that the Bible’s wisdom comes to us filtered through human experiences and stories that reflect specific times and places in history.
We believe that God often speaks to us through stories and current events. God’s messages in the Bible come through themes that are repeated in both the Old and New Testament.
We find God’s truth in scripture when we read together and then talk about our own lives and ask questions about how these stories affect us. I often say that doubt is not incompatible with faith but a part of the journey that leads to a more mature faith. When we come together for worship we don’t hang up our mind in the coat section. We bring our intellect to the study of scripture.