Last time I described how Traditionalists put themselves above the Bible; that is, they decide whether a translation is correct or not based on whether particular verses agree with their strongly preferred doctrines and interpretations. In other words, they somehow ‘know’ what the Bible is supposed to say, instead of being instructed by what it does say. And that doesn’t even count verses that they prefer to ignore altogether, or explain away.

This amuses the Compassionate crowd no end. That people who claim to take the Bible literally then decide when that literal meaning is wrong is evidence of their lack of intelligence or discernment. But the Compassionates go through the gamut of emotions with someone like me. They are astonished that I believe in a literal six-day Creation. And they are shocked and saddened that I cannot detect that the so-called God of the Old Testament, and his teachings, are the opposite of the Christ and his teachings in the New Testament.

For them, the Old Testament is a collection of writings reflecting the tribal superstitions and perverse cultural practices of a barbaric age.

Why, the Bible, with its endorsement of slavery and treatment of women, simply cannot be the reflection of any truly good God. In general, the Compassionates reject each and every Traditionalist understanding of the Bible.

If the Traditionalists sing “Onward, Christian Soldiers,” the Compassionates celebrate Jesus the Pacifist. Traditionalists say, with the apostle Paul, that any that will not work should not eat. The Compassionates champion society’s obligation to help the poor. And so it goes.

The Compassionate position is very appealing. On the surface, it’s simpler and more coherent than Traditionalism, and that attracts me because of Occam’s Razor: that the simplest solution is usually the correct one. But on closer examination, it just doesn’t hold up.

The first problem is that the Compassionate view simply refuses to engage parts of scripture that don’t support its world view. Where Traditionalists have verses here and there they don’t want to think about, or try to explain away, Compassionates essentially reject the entire Old Testament.

That wouldn’t be so bad, except they want to claim biblical authority to do so. That is, they use their understanding of Christ to reject all the parts of the Old Testament they don’t like: slavery, status of women, stance on homosexuality, being oft-cited examples.

The problem with this is that the Christ they claim to believe in repeatedly quotes the Old Testament as authority for his teachings. Maintaining that one believes in Christ, but not in the Old Testament is somewhat akin to saying, I like apples, but I don’t believe in apple trees. You can’t have one without the other.

In the end, both stances are attempts to simplify the task of living as a Christian in a sinful world. Traditionalists want the Bible to answer every question directly, verbatim; Compassionates reduce the Bible to a sort of cosmic niceness. I am lonely because I cannot accept either view.

The Old Testament does not cease to be part of the Bible because it offends our sensibilities; the Prince of Peace was not a pacifist.  The Bible, and the Savior, both challenge our understanding. . . praise God! They both demand full engagement of our minds, or wills, and our emotions. Neither can be reduced to a simple sentence. John 3:16 comes close, but its far from a simple thought.

In the next several posts, I hope to share just how I do view the Bible. That is, if there are other lonely souls out there who would find it worthwhile. If this is a topic that you find useful, please leave a comment or a question. If you disagree or have questions, feel free to leave comments.