The Bible is a library of books. Through its sixty-six books, the reader learns how God has revealed himself through the history of Israel and through the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. Through human writers, God speaks and teaches readers of the Bible his plan for the redemption of all human beings.
Whenever a person reads the Bible with an open heart, when he or she approaches the Bible with a desire to learn and understand, God reveals himself to the diligent reader. Bible reading provides a way for the reader to discover and understand the personality, the ways, and the plan of God for the world and for those who read.
Enter Chris Curry.
Chris Curry, a student at San Jose State University, was trying to understand God, the church and Christianity, so he decided to read the Bible. However, instead of reading the whole Bible as a book which tells of God’s love and concern for the men and women he created, with a storyline that begins in Genesis and ends in Revelation, he chose to read only the book of Leviticus.
It is impossible for anyone to know the God of the Bible by just reading Leviticus. I hope that, by reading Leviticus, Chris discovered that God is a holy God and that the strange laws and requirements in Leviticus which he ridiculed, are part of God’s call to Israel to become a holy people, a people separated from the strange and unwholesome practices of its neighbor.
By reading only Leviticus, Chris never discovered that the God of the Bible is a God who cares for the poor, the widow, the orphan, and the stranger. He never discovered that the God of the Bible is the giver of all good gifts, a God who provides instructions to keep people from harmful acts and thoughts, who is true to his promises to forgive those who truly seek forgiveness, a God who is just and fair.
By reading only Leviticus, Chris never discovered that the God of the Bible is a God who suffers with those who suffer, who weeps for sinful nations, and who agonizes because of the rebellion of his people. Chris never discovered that the God of the Bible is a gracious God, merciful, slow to get angry, and full of kindness.
By reading only Leviticus, he never read God’s loving words to a sinful people: “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son. But the more I called him, the more he rebelled against me. How can I give you up, Ephraim? My heart cries out within me, how I long to help you” (Hosea 11:1-2, 8).
Because Chris stopped reading the Bible in Leviticus, he came to the conclusion that the God of the Bible is an evil God. But his approach to knowing God is flawed, as Chris himself recognized. He wrote:
A bit of a confession, though: I have not read the entire Bible. I have read the entire book of Leviticus, and it is this that I base my appraisal of the entire scripture’s current relevance.
I also realize that using one chapter in the Bible to condemn all religion is quite a jump, but Leviticus is a choice example from an age of rampant ignorance. It is to this age that the pillars of a vast majority of the world's religions date.
Chris speaks of the Biblical period as “an age of rampant ignorance.” However, what his attempt at understanding God reveals is rampant ignorance about God’s purpose for the world and God’s plan for his life. By reading only Leviticus, Chris never read of God’s loving concern for him and never heard the voice of God calling him to a life of faith and obedience. Maybe a paraphrase of the Hosea’s text quoted above will show God’s concern for Chris:
“When Chris was a child, I loved him, and while he was reading Leviticus, I called him. But the more I called him, the more he rebelled against me. How can I give you up, Chris? My heart cries out within me, how I long to help you” (Hosea 11:1-2, 8).
Maybe what Chris Curry needs is to read a little bit more of the Bible. Why stop with Leviticus? Begin with Genesis and think about man and woman being created in the image and likeness of their Creator. Then linger a little in Genesis 2 and 3 and reflect on how ingratitude and human rebellion affected their relationship with the Creator. Then, read all the things God did to restore that relationship. And Chris, when you finish reading Revelation, you also will be amazed at the God of the Bible.
In the end, however, I guess Chris Curry and our politicians have a lot in common:
Chris never read the Bible and came to the conclusion that God is not good. The politicians in Washington never read the massive economic stimulus bill and came to the conclusion that it was good.
Talk about ignorance!
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary
Tags: Biblical Illiteracy, Leviticus