There can be no doubt that many people read the Bible incorrectly and unwisely, missing such literary elements as figures of speech, including metaphors, similes, &c. Reading a metaphorical passage too literally is certainly one way of misreading scripture. Nevertheless, assuming the following account is accurate, there is something disquieting about the recent conference on Children, Youth, and a New Kind of Christianity: Emergent Christians Warn against the Bible’s “Loaded Guns”:
Carl Stauffer, professor of Development and Justice Studies at Eastern Mennonite University, warned against the Bible’s “seemingly divinely ordained violence.” Emergent Church guru Brian McLaren similarly worried about how church-going parents can give their children “loaded guns” in the form of “texts of terror” condoning war and other violence. He wondered whether unfiltered Bible-reading could “leave them with the idea that God is violent.” And he warned: “Bible-preaching/teaching/reading people are the most dangerous in the world for Muslims.”
After McLaren advised emergent parents to seek out the “texts of healing” in the Bible, he talked about how the Bible’s economic teachings could help stave off violence in society. The Old and New Testament narratives “focus on desireespecially competitive desireas the root of violence.” The best-selling author complained, “Our entire economic system is based on rivalrous desire.” Author, educator, and panelist Ivy Beckwith explained: “Desire is another word for self-interest.”
Is the word unfiltered McLaren’s, or that of Barton Gingerich, the article’s author? It matters because, if it’s McLaren’s, it seems to imply that the Bible needs to be censored by the more enlightened presumably the conference speakers themselves for the benefit of the rest of us.
I personally know people who came to the faith, not by going to church or through a Christian friend, but simply by reading the Bible, a book they had not been familiar with up to then. They read it through in its entirety, including such grisly stories as that related in Judges 19-21. Despite the messiness and violence of the scriptural narrative, the Holy Spirit somehow managed to work in their hearts so that they were grabbed by it, fell in love with it and found their own place within it. They did not come to the Bible with the expectation that someone should make it “safe” for them. They never deemed it necessary to accept only those parts of scripture that they did not find offensive or that refrained from challenging their existing presuppositions. Far from it. They were cut to the quick, like the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:26-40) and the Philippian jailer (Acts 16:25-40), asking, not “Who can make the Bible palatable to me?”, but rather “What must I do to be saved?”
Like a microscope into their own soul, reading the Bible prompted them to repent and turn to God for mercy. If some people profess to find the Bible dangerous, perhaps the world could use more such danger.