That dangerous book, the Bible
Imagine my astonishment—we’re about to talk religion for a few minutes, so back off if that’s not to your taste—at reading this passage in the latest Newsweek:
... Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, that citadel of Christian conservatism, concludes that one’s Bible reading must be overseen by the proper authorities. Just because everyone should read the Bible “doesn’t mean that everyone’s equally qualified to read it, and it doesn’t mean that the text is just to be used as a mirror for ourselves,” he says. “All kinds of heresies come from people who read the Bible and recklessly believe that they’ve understood it correctly.”
When I was a boy, what we understood to be one of the fundamental tenets of the Protestant Reformation was that the Bible was to be read by all believers for their own understanding and enlightenment, and that setting up some authority mediating between the believer and the book was wicked, abominable priestcraft.
Now the Reverend Doctor Mohler is surely correct is saying that the Bible has given rise to many crackpot interpretations; I would include his among them. (You may remember the Reverend Doctor Mohler from a previous post about his contention that yoga is a filthy pagan practice unfit for any Christian. Must be an interesting place, his madrassa in Louisville.)
Of course, in another sense, the Reverend Doctor Mohler is squarely in the Protestant tradition. John Calvin thought it a fine thing when Michael Servetus was burned alive for expressing qualms about the Trinity, and the Massachusetts Bay settlers who fled persecution in England discovered that they had quite a taste for it when members of their own party turned heterodox.
But still, for a Baptist divine to tell you that you are not qualified to read and understand Scripture shows us what a peculiar time we’ve come to.