When I was a a young Christian in the early 1970’s there was a bumper sticker that stated:
“God Said It
I Believe It
That Settles It”
I guess the intention of the message was to state that God’s Word is to be believed and trusted simply because it is God’s Word. No questions asked. I guess that is a legitimate stand to take for some people. But the unintended, underlying message was perhaps a bit more harsh and stunting: “Don’t you dare question God and don’t you dare question me as to what I believe about God and faith.” This kind of thinking is actually the kind that I often see and hear in Christian circles and conversations about the Bible. In an attempt to “prove God” or validate the authority of Scripture we take a stand and believe it is the only stand that can be taken. We take a Bible verse and believe there is only one way to look at it. The right way. Our way. However, this type of vantage point does nothing to open up conversation or dialogue with people who think differently than us or come from a different perspective. It shuts people down and turns them off.
I think the line I least like about that little saying is “That Settles It.” Well then, I guess that settles it. No room for questions here. No space for contemplation or challenge. There have been many things in the Bible that I have not understood. There have been many passages that I have wrestled with and wondered not only what God was doing but why He was doing it. There are times I read something and I tell God that it is very unsettling, very disturbing. I know that there are passages that I once read when I was 20 years old and have a very different perspective on the same passage now 35 years later. There are things that God says and I’m not sure what I believe. There are things I believe and I’m not sure I feel settled about it. There are things that I have settled in my mind but I don’t know if God said it.
People who are seeking truth, who are searching for God, can find Him through Scripture. The Scriptures, after all, testify to the person and work of Christ. But not everyone finds Him that way. In fact, most people I know who are believers did not come to Christ through reading the Bible. They came as the result of a friendship or they heard a sermon or attended a worship service that touched their heart or they were impacted by God’s presence in nature. Some came while deep in sorrow and others discovered that they had believed in God as young children but never knew how to explain it. The Bible was secondary or tertiary or all together irrelevant to their experience with God. And when they did begin reading the Bible it was a lot of questions and confusion. But they were allowed to wrestle. They were allowed to question. They were invited to engage God and not simply be passive bystanders.
As I understand the God of the Bible He is big enough to shoulder our doubts, to let us struggle through our questions and not to feel condemned or rejected by our weak faith. He allows us to carry our perspective and gently leads us into His deeper truths. “Come, let us reason together” He implores to Isaiah. (Isaiah 1:18). That doesn’t sound like a God who shuts down conversation. In Acts (17:16- 17) Paul engages the Athenians in a give and take, sharing stories and their views on God and religion. “So he reasoned in the synagogue with both Jews and God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there.” At a young age Jesus sat in the Temple and had conversations with people, listening to their views and finding out about their knowledge and belief of God the Father. “After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.” (Luke 2:46). I don’t think Jesus would have said: “God Said It; I Believe It; That Settles It.”
If I were to re-write that slogan I think I might say it something like this:
God Said It
I Believe It.
But there are things I struggle with; I don’t understand everything and although I believe in the authority of Scripture I have to say that some of it is confusing. I have some real questions about God and about life and there are definitely areas that I have doubts. Even though I believe God said it I am not always 100% sure what He says or what He means.
That Settles It.
I am going to need to talk to people from a wide range of backgrounds, cultures, ethnicities, histories, perspectives and experiences to begin to grasp just how wide and deep God’s love is and how amazing His Word is. I will also better be able to share the convictions of my faith in a way that invites people into a conversation and instead of using the Bible as a weapon to beat people over the head with and force them to see what I see I will use it as an open letter of invitation into the heart of God.
I just think that may be a little too much for a bumper sticker.
What do you think? How does it make you feel?