Protestants often pride themselves on being “Bible-believing Christians” and excoriate Catholics for relying on clerical authority instead. There are two good reasons for regarding this Bible-centric position with skepticism. For one thing, Catholics are exposed to readings from the Old Testament and New Testament every time they go to mass. For another, despite the noisy evangelists who love to spout chapter and verse, Protestants are less familiar with the Bible than they think they are—or think they ought to be.
Some entertaining anecdotal evidence to this effect was presented in the Sacramento Bee in an article on Wednesday, April 16. One of the state capital's Lutheran churches has embarked on a program designed to guide its members through the entire Bible in three months' time. There have been surprises:
It’s been an eye-opener: The violence—the sheer level of bloodshed in the Old Testament—has taken many of them by surprise.It's another example of Christians not being fully aware of what their holy book contains. Cherry-picking Christians can be shocked when they try to plow line-by-line through the text of scripture:
“Your Sunday school teachers didn’t tell you about that,” associate pastor Leslie Welton said to a recent class of almost two dozen people.
“How many of you are shocked by the blood and gore and carnage?” asked Welton.What is a good apologist to do? The preferred approach seems to be “Look over there!”
There were nods of agreement around the room: Page by page, chapter by chapter, class members are deeply shocked. With its betrayals, infidelities and lessons stubbornly unlearned, its epic levels of carnage and vengeance, this wild ride through the Old Testament is not the Bible they expected.
The Old Testament also depicts a world in which God’s grace shines amid the violenceReally? That's the best you can do? God's grace shines amidst all of the God-induced violence?
Apparently the God of genocide (Deuteronomy 20:16-18; Joshua 10:40; 11:10-15, Hosea 13:16, 1 Samuel 15:2-3) gets a pass because he later cleans up his act by sending a merciful savior to bestow peace and redemption on humanity—that is, when the messiah isn't himself threatening war and dissension (Matthew 10:34, Luke 14:26).
Their leaders will do their best to put the Bible-readers at ease, but even in these first stages of the Bible-reading project we see how the Bible itself is one of the most effective cures for religiosity. Read the Bible! It's an excellent self-exposé.