I don't think the Bible is true...
At least not in it's entirety. Nor do I think that the whole gestalt (I hope I'm using this word correctly) of Truth (pay attention to the capital "t") is contained within the Hebrew and Christian scriptures. I realize that in saying this I'm potentially isolating myself from a whole slew of "evangelicals." Simultaneously, I think it's important to say how we really feel. And while I was raised to believe that all of scripture is inerrant and infallible, I can't say with sincerity that I still hold that belief to be valid.
Growing up in the Southern/Independent Baptist worlds, my Bible was my most prized and cherished possession. I loved it. I marked it up. I protected it with bland, masculine polyester/nylon cases. I loved having multiple translations, paying attention to the different ways they each presented different words, topics, or passages (without knowing an ounce of Greek, Hebrew, or any other biblical language). I knew the order of the books. I memorized particular passages, chapter and verse. When my non-Christian friends would challenge ideals and standards set forth in scripture, either I would have a textbook answer prepared, or I would clam up with the typical "The Bible says it. I believe it. That settles it" mentality. Clearly I'd not thought things out enough. I hadn't studied enough. This object filled with words wasn't hidden in my heart deep enough.
For the sake of full disclosure, while I've read the Bible in it's entirety (struggling hard to stay awake during Numbers and 1 & 2 Chronicles), it's been a long time since I've repeated that process. When I was asked to leave my home church in 2003, it would seem that I left some of my love for and trust in the Bible somewhere in that building, never to pick it up again. Even to this day, I still carry with me some of the pain and grief of having experienced scripture used against me as a weapon.
The Bible no longer shined with appeal. Now, it had spikes and blades, living up to the moniker of being a "double-edged sword"
This "sword" was being used to slice and dice those who were supposed to embrace it, cling to it, hold it near and dear to their hearts. And worst of all, it was being used against those people by those who were entrusted to learn and use it wisely and responsibly, with love, kindness, justice, mercy, and grace. All of a sudden, things were becoming twisted and distorted. My blind eyes had been opened to the ways and times that I had been the one doing the slicing and dicing, the judging and condemning, and beating, battering, and bruising. I was crushed.
Maybe the Bible is completely true, and the problem isn't it. It's us. The moment those divinely inspired words hit our hands, minds, and lips, they became tarnished and broken (though not by all people, and not completely). When humanity grabs onto something good and beautiful, there is often a tendency to abuse and misuse it for the purposes of power and domination, separating the "us" from the "them." There are even times where God is represented as a bloodthirsty tyrant who wants to put some in power and destroy those who already have it, and not always as a means of enacting justice.
The world is decimated by a flood because God has "repented" of ever creating humankind (yes, we were that screwed up). God orders Joshua to kill every single Canaanite upon entering the promised land (aka genocide). Sodom and Gomorrah is burned to the ground. A king has a sword shoved inside him so deeply that it disappears and he loses complete control over his bowels. There is story after story within the Bible that is ridden with violence, destruction, and exclusivity.
The more I read and studied, the more I thought, "How can God be like this?"
I started delving into other sacred texts. The Quran. The Bhagavad Gita. Even the Book of Mormon (and I'm not talking the book from the musical, though I delved into that as well). There were similarities, and there were differences. Then I thought back to a conversation that took place my second semester of seminary about the notion of compelling narrative. The truth is that we all have stories, and we all share them. Stories are a primary way that we as humans make sense of our world and build meaning of the crap that we endure. Some things we face are easy to understand, but for the most part, life leaves us with more questions and uncertainties than answers and definitives.
I realized that I could read the Bible (and other texts) and find meaning in them without having to believe in the absolute Truth of the stories contained within them. After all, what difference does believing in a global flood or a talking donkey or a king killing 200 men just for their foreskins have on my life today? What questions do these stories answer?
On the other hand, what can I learn from reading about God's incessant pursuit of Israel as represented in the book of Hosea? What does Song of Solomon teach me about love, intimacy, and the beauty of the erotic (no, I do not think it's merely an allegory for God's love of God's people)? How does reading about Jesus and Zacchaeus or the bleeding woman or the countless blind, lame, poor, leprosy-ridden, demon-possessed people help me understand God's love and care for those who the world has counted out and deemed as expendable?
What do all these stories teach me about how God sees, cares for, and loves me? How does it teach me to love?
Sure, I may not think the Bible is inerrant or infallible. I might think some of it is far-fetched or completely made up. But even fictional stories have meaning and can teach us deep, core truths about our world and ourselves. Inerrancy doesn't make meaning. Intentionality does. Whenever invest the time and effort into finding meaning and making sense of this mess we call live, especially when we do it together in the context of community and relationship, we're bound to find some answers, some truths—truths that make us better and in turn equip us to make our world better.