Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Why Do Fundamentalists Publish Books On The Bible?

"The Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it."  That statement is one common amongst fundamentalists in America.  They feel they can say that because they also believe that the language of the Bible is plain and easily understood, and thus doesn't need to be interpreted by anyone.  If scripture is not easily understood then it runs into the problem of needing to be interpreted for people, which brings in personal bias, rather than hearing God's "unadulterated" word. (Well temporarily ignore the fact that reading brings in its own bias.)  Thus they can try and make the claim that the Bible clearly says it and they don't have to think about it and therefore it is settled.

One of the lectionary readings for this week is from Nehemiah, which says "They read aloud from the scroll, the Instruction from God, explaining and interpreting it so the people could understand what they heard." (8:8 NRSV)  Now it could be that some of the people did not speak Hebrew and thus that is the reason it needed to be explained and interpreted.  But I think a better reading is that scripture is often hard to understand and needs to be explained and interpreted for people, which is what Ezra and others were doing.

Indeed, what I spend a large amount of my time doing as a pastor is interpreting and explaining scripture to people. Scripture is not usually explicit in what it means, and often there are different meanings and interpretations.  This is especially true when reading it in a language other than it's original language, where interpretation has already been done.  I often tell people that as soon as they think they have a passage figured out they should go back and read it again because they have probably missed something.

Which leads me back to the fundamentalist perspective, and something that occurred to me as I contemplated that passage, is that if scripture is plain and easily understood, then why do fundamentalists have preachers to tell them what they could clearly get for themselves if they simply read scripture.  And more importantly why do they ever publish any books on scripture which certainly not only seek to interpret scripture but also make sure that people interpret it in the correct way. If it's so clear shouldn't we be able to figure it out on our own?

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