Most of us worship our beliefs about God, rather than God himself.
Our beliefs are influenced by a lot of factors, but a major one is the Bible.
Many of us worship our Bibles more than we worship God. We worship our ideas about God that we’ve formulated through our interpretations of the Bible.
The Bible and God are not one in the same. The Bible is no more God than the burning bush was. Both are just expressions of the Divine but can never be considered Divinity itself. They reveal something about God, but could never reveal everything because both are incredibly limited in their reach. To borrow a saying from another religion, “the Tao which can be named is not the Tao”. God is beyond all names and forms and definitions.
The Bible could never possibly contain all that God is, but even if it did, we are still incredibly limited in our human ability to truly grasp it, as is evident by the multitude of ways the Bible has been interpreted by countless people since it’s formation. Which interpretation is the accurate one? How can we possibly know beyond all doubt the one correct interpretation?
Taking this concept one step further, I’d like to explore the idea that Jesus himself did not reveal the fullness of God. If you think that’s a heretical statement, then let me draw your attention to the fact that Jesus basically said the same thing.
Jesus said that after he was gone the Holy Spirit would come and teach us even more- things that the disciples themselves could not then handle.
Just one example:
Jesus made it clear that he came for Israel/Jews and that he wasn’t interested in ministering to the Gentiles. He only engaged the Gentiles when they insisted upon his healing for a loved one. Yet after Jesus’ ascension, the Holy Spirit revealed to Peter that salvation was also for the Gentiles as well. That was really hard for the Jews to accept because it contradicted what they believed their scriptures said and, from all we know, what Jesus communicated as well.
If we just looked at Jesus’ example in the Gospels, we’d get the idea that Jesus would rather not deal with most of us because we aren’t Jewish- that Israel gets the feast and we just get the crumbs. I don’t know of any Christian who believes that. (Matthew 15:22)
The Holy Spirit went on to reveal this mystery to Paul, that the Gentiles were to be grafted in to the family of faith. All are welcome.
Jesus didn’t make this truth clear in the gospels. Jesus did not fully reveal God or his will to us.
God, through the Holy Spirit, continued to reveal himself and his will to such saints as Peter, John, James, and especially Paul (who was never a physical disciple of Jesus). We’ve added their writings to what we call the Holy Scriptures, aka the Word of God. These teachings form the foundation of most of our beliefs about God. We accept that God revealed himself to these men.
But for some reason we have decided that God stopped revealing himself since then. Apparently we have reached the end of God. He has fully revealed himself and there’s nothing left to discover because the Bible says it all.
Paul was unloading these paradigm shifting ideas about God that even Jesus didn’t reveal to us… why did we accept those? And why will we not accept that the Holy Spirit is still revealing even more mind-blowing truths about God and his ways?
Another strike against the Bible being the full truth of God is that the Gospels do not record every miracle and every teaching of Jesus. One of the Gospels says that his works would fill countless books. There is obviously a lot about Jesus we are missing and I’m sure there are countless aspects of his unrecorded ministry that would no doubt further shape our understanding of him and therefore God and his ways. The Bible does not record the entire life of Jesus, whom we proclaim as God in the flesh. So then we can assume that there is a lot about the character of God that cannot be found in the Bible. Which is a reason he gave us the Holy Spirit- to continue to teach us the unfathomable heights and depths of who God is. God is endless.
The Law and Prophets were clearly not the final word on God. And I refuse to believe that the Bible is either. The Bible is not the final authority on God, because God is way bigger than the Bible.
Many Christians would label me as a heretic for what I’ve shared here. But Jesus was also labeled a heretic for challenging the Pharisees’ narrow definitions of God according to the Law/Torah. In the same vein, I’d like to challenge our narrow definitions of God according to our interpretations of the Bible.
Will we be humble enough to admit that our beliefs about God, based upon our human limited interpretations of the Bible, are preventing us from actually knowing God better?
Let us no longer idolize the Bible or worship our beliefs about God. May we humbly surrender to the truth that God is far beyond anything we could ever imagine, and return once again to the profound awe of the great mystery of who God is.