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Picking and Choosing

Does the Bible lose its validity if it’s altered?

If I can pick and choose verses to present in argument, is that actually presenting a Biblical case?

I visited the Museum of the Bible in Washington, DC, last week. I went expecting an in-your-face presentation of Biblical inerrancy, but I was pleasantly surprised. The museum seems to ignore anything that didn’t happen in Israel, America, or England in the time of the Revolution, so there’s a lot left out. But what was presented was interesting.

One exhibit was about the Slave Bible. This was created in the early 1800s by the Society for the Conversion of Negro Slaves. It was meant to teach the fundamentals of reading, and to introduce the Bible to slaves in the British West-Indian Islands.

“Prepare a short form of public prayers for them … together with select portions of Scripture … particularly those which relate to the duties of slaves towards their masters,” was the 1808 instruction of Anglican Bishop of London Beilby Porteus, founder of the Society for the Conversion of Negro Slaves.

The Slave Bible leaves out 90% of the Old Testament, and 50% of the New Testament.

Those statistics alone tell you that the Bible is a book of hope and promise and deliverance.

Missing is the story of the Exodus when the Israelites were released from slavery. All of the Psalms are missing, since they speak of forgiveness and deliverance.

An example of what is included: "Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ." Ephesians 6:5

People were invited to leave their reactions to the exhibit. One of the questions asked was “Would you call the Slave Bible the ‘Good Book?’”

Responses were varied:

  • No, the Slave Bible is not inspired by God’s words, it’s inspired by evil people.

  • Yes, knowing a small part of the Bible is better than knowing none of the Bible.

  • Yes. Our churches today continue to pick and chose what we read and know in the Bible

  • No, it goes against the word of God to selectively present the Bible (Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it…” Deut 4:2a)

For some people, Bible literacy means being able to quote a Bible verse to defend or refute anything. Because somewhere in this huge book, there is one-sentence that can indeed defend or refute ANYTHING!

Some of the news this week has been about the Special General Conference of the United Methodist Church. This special meeting of world-wide delegates was held specifically to deal with the question of whether the UMC should change its rules to support same-sex marriage and openly-LGBTQ clergy.

Despite a compromise plan which would allow regional church bodies to make the decision (similar to what the ELCA offers), the delegates on Tuesday said no. The UMC will not support same-sex marriage or openly-LGBTQ clergy.

For traditionalists, particularly those representing the UMC in Africa. it is a Biblical issue. The Bible speaks against sexual “aberrations.”

For those hoping to change the traditional practices of the church, it is a Bible issue. We are all created in God’s image.

The Bible, in individual verses, can be used to defend or refute anything.

The UMC is one of the ELCA’s full communion partners. So be with our partners in prayer as they sort out their future.

And, think about joining a Bible study so you can understand the Bible in context.

- Ann Iona Warner

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