This year I have been reading the Bible in chronological order. I admit, it's been a while since I have read through the Old Testament. As I read the history of the Patriarchs, and especially the history of the kingdoms of Judah and Israel, I get so frustrated with the stories. There are times when the people of the Bible make ISIS look reasonable and the God of the Old Testament seems far distant from the character of Jesus. I have to come to grips with the fact that I would rather cut some of those passages right out of the Bible instead of dealing with them as a part of my heritage of faith.
Brian Cosby, a pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America denomination, addresses this very struggle in his new book, Uncensored: Daring to Embrace the Entire Bible. He writes that "many self-professing Christians cherry pick the Scriptures for a feel-good faith." We like the scriptures that make a good bumper sticker or t-shirt slogan, but spend a little time reading the Bible and you'll find plenty that you don't want to see on your next youth retreat t-shirt.
Cosby leaves no doubt that he holds a high view of scripture. He affirms that "God's Word is inspired, inerrant, and authoritative." When there's something troubling in the Bible, "it beckons my trust in a God who is using His Word to take me to His intended destination." Cosby shares R.C. Sproul's view: "When there's something in the Word of God that I don't like, the problem is not with the Word of God, it's with me."
After affirming the reliability and authority of scripture, Cosby addresses some specific areas in which Christians tend to be selective in their reading and use of scripture. He discusses creation, God's justice, God's role in restraining evil while not being the source of evil, his intolerance for sin, and the reality of hell. Cosby also delves into some expressions of cherry-picking faith: churches that emphasize entertainment as worship, and parents who outsource the development and teaching of their children to third parties.
Uncensored has helped me to reflect on ways in which I tend to gloss over or ignore passages that I don't like as I read. It's a great reminder that "all scripture is God-breathed and is useful . . ." His advice is perfect: "When we come to a Scripture passage that is offensive, we should pray and ask, 'God, why have You inspired this text? What are You trying to teach Your church? How does this humble me and glorify Christ?'"
Cosby addresses some of the "hard passages" that may come to your mind as you read, although not to an extent that will satisfy everyone. He gives some good examples, but the strength of Uncensored lies in the encouragement to embrace all of the Bible with the attitude that God included even the embarrassing, unsettling, and downright offensive portions of scripture for a good reason. That reason may not be evident to me, but, like Sproul said, my presumption must be that the problem lies with me, not with God.
Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!