Like many Christians, I used to believe that the Bible was the literal word of God. Meaning I once believed that every single story found in the Bible was historically accurate and happened as described. Humanity began with Adam and Eve, the world was destroyed in a flood, and Jesus Christ was born of a virgin, was crucified and resurrected 3 days later. I was taught that because the Bible was the literal word of God that every other book, (whether considered “sacred” or not) was inferior and while reading other books was fine, the Bible was the only book one needed to navigate through life’s struggles and challenges. Other books, including religious texts were denigrated and scorned and those who questioned the inerrancy of the Bible were distrusted and were viewed as believing the lies from satan. Many Christians maintain that without the claim of inerrancy and literalism the Bible would be worthless, just like any other book. They quote 1st Corinthians: “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins…if for this lie only we have hoped in Christ, we are all of all people most to be pitied.” (1st Corinthians 15:17, 19, NRSV) They argue that if the resurrection isn’t real or if any portion of the scripture is found to be false, then the whole Bible is just a tale of worthless stories.
The Message version puts in even starker terms the consequences of believing or adhering to a story that is patently false: “If corpses can’t be raised, then Christ wasn’t, because he was indeed dead. And if Christ wasn’t raised, then all you’re doing is wandering about in the dark, as lost as ever. It’s even worse for those who died hoping in Christ and resurrection, because they’re already in their graves. If all we get out of Christ is a little inspiration for a few short years, we’re a pretty sorry lot.” (1 Corinthians 15:16-19)
Even some atheists and agnostics fall into the literalism trap, claiming that the Bible is worthless because the stories found are not historically and factually true. Just as many Christians spend an inordinate amount of time trying to prove the Bible is factually accurate and therefore trustworthy, some atheists exert an enormous amount of energy to providing evidence on the inaccuracy of the Bible as evidence of its worthlessness. (Though to be fair, they are on much firmer ground then Biblical literalists).
I maintain that literalism takes a reductionist view of the value of stories. Literalism often turns stories into parodies. Bones raising and talking? A talking serpent? A talking mule? A virgin becoming pregnant through the Holy Spirit? No wonder more and more people are finding Christianity to be ridiculous and of little use to modern society.
Even though I no longer self-identify as a Christian, (agnosticism might be a closer fit, though to be fair the line between Progressive Christianity and agnosticism is pretty thin) I still find the Bible to fascinating and in some cases relevant to my life. why? Because I value the art of story-telling. I find stories can be a valuable way of expressing a truth about humanity, about getting a glimpse into the society that shaped the story tellers and the listeners. This is why in the next 3 blog posts, I will be comparing the lessons I have learned and treasured from the Bible with the lessons learned through the tv show, “Doctor Who.” Literalists will most likely be offended. They might be offended because they view the Bible to be vastly superior to a tv show and to even think about comparing it to, “Doctor Who” is insulting to their faith. Others will be insulted that I am comparing their beloved tv show to a collection of stories they consider to be worthless, horrible, and degrading.
Nevertheless, I believe story telling is vitally important to any society and the value of any story depends on the listeners. There are plenty of people who self-identify as Christians but who have little knowledge about the Bible. They might here a few verses recited here and there at church but in their daily lives the Bible has little relevance. They can barely name the gospels in the New Testament. For others, the stories, even though they are not “factually true” resonate with them deeply. They find strength to continue to press on during difficult situations or to advocate for the poor and oppressed in society,
Likewise, there are many of people who simply enjoy watching, “Doctor Who.” It is just another quirky, funny, sad, and imaginative tv show. They might be proud members of the fandom community, but to them, the show doesn’t really provide any interesting lessons, it is simply there for entertainment value. Though be weary of insulting their favorite companion or incarnation of the Doctor! For others in the fandom community the show tells stories that for some reason resonates deeply with them. They see and enjoy the entertainment value of the show (spoonheads! Daleks! Space travel!) but they are also reminded of their own humanity. They recognize that it is “just” a tv show, which prevents them from taking it so seriously that they disparage those who do not watch the show, or who have a different opinion (like in any fandom, there are instances of bullying, bickering, and pettiness) but they still find the stories to be meaningful. I argue that modern stories are no less important than stories written and assembled thousands of years ago.