British apologist and author Amy Orr-Ewing says,
“To assert that it is possible for a text to have meaning and to communicate that meaning to a reader or listener is not to take away entirely the responsibility of the reader or listener to participate in the process. The reader must ask questions about the author’s intentions as well as scrutinize their own motivations and reactions. The historical context of the text plays a part as does the cultural context of the reader.
To be dogmatic about the non-possibility of any text having and communicating meaning (as the postmodern asserts) is to be closed-minded. And as we have also observed, this dogmatism is self-refuting and fails its own test. The Christian does not ask a skeptic to naively accept what the Bible says because “we say so,” but only to be open-minded enough to read a Gospel and ask questions of it, scrutinize it, and see for themselves whether what they find is compelling and truthful or not.”
That’s a mouthful. Let’s boil it down:
- When you read the bible for yourself, don’t disengage.
Ask tough questions. Read in context. Your goal should not be to merely check off today’s slot on your read through the bible program. It should be to gain understanding.
- Don’t let people write off the bible so easily.
You don’t believe in God? Fine. But have you actually read and evaluated the bible for yourself? It was written by man? Agreed. So are other books. Do they contain any truth? You say it contains errors and contradictions? Ok – which ones are most troublesome to you?
Using Orr-Ewing’s instructions as a starting point, what would happen if we invited a skeptic to read the bible with us? Why not have a bible study with the purpose of answering some of these questions? If both sides are genuinely seeking the truth, then no one should have any reason not to engage.
In these instances where people are dismissive of the bible, perhaps our goal should not be to convince them that is is true, but to engage them in the types of conversations where truth becomes self-evident. And – you might even build bridges through friendly discussing rather than burn them with an ugly standoff.