Can you believe in God and not believe that the Bible is the “word of God”?

You didn't do what I told you to do...A minister friend posted this graphic on my Facebook timeline a couple of days ago. It reminded me of the first time I read the Flood story in Genesis while wearing my thinking cap. I came face-to-face with the inexplicably heinous, unforgiving and inhumane behavior that scriptural storytellers have attributed to God. And they tell us this is the “Word of God“.

I understand why and how it was created. Culture, limited knowledge religious politics and the scribes’ proximity to mythical storytelling played huge roles in the disparate collection of books. What I don’t understand is why, three centuries later, after literacy went viral, 25% of Americans still believe that everything in the Bible is true.

That figure is questionable. If 25% really believed that the Bible is the “word of God,” there would be more murders and their defense would be based on scripture.

The same people who claim that the Bible is inerrant call genocide inhumane and murder immoral.  So do they really believe it? I don’t think most of them understand what they believe.

Case in point: Yesterday morning’s encounter with a Chicago bus driver. As I greeted her and paid my fare, the driver responded with a heightened sense of delight.

Next stop: Eternal Damnation

“I’m so grateful that you got on my bus!” Her face was aglow, making me quickly flip through my mental Rolodex to see if we’d previously met.

She leaned toward me. “May I ask you something?”

“Sure.” I quickly regretted my automatic response.

“Do you go to church?” Oh no, is she going to try to give me a sermon before I sit down? I wondered.

“On occasion,” I responded, looking around at the other passengers. Had she asked everyone that question? Their faces weren’t giving up that information.

She wanted to know my opinion about something. For the full five minutes that I was on the bus, she talked about her young minister, who seemed to be involved in some suspicious activities.

“He’s going straight to hell!” she said, authoritatively. “I’m saved. But if they rest of them aren’t careful, they’re going to end up there right along with him, and wonder how they got there!”

She was referring, of course, to the concept described in the graphic that Rev. Bobby had shared: According to scripture, God knew that “every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood” (Gen. 8:21). Scripture also tells us that God created us. So if we were born sinners, that means God created us that way intentionally. Despite that, human sinfulness outrages Him.

According to scripture, “So God announced to Noah, ‘I’ve decided to destroy every living thing on earth, because it has become filled with violence due to them. Look! I’m about to annihilate them, along with the earth.'” (Gen. 6:13)

True to His word, the scriptural God flooded Earth and “everything on the dry land that had the breath of life in its nostrils died” (Gen. 7:22).

The fluctuating Great Flood

Being omniscient and all, God knew what the flood’s outcome would be. Afterward, He apparently regretted it. Yes, according to the Bible, God makes mistakes. It says that when the waters receded 150 days later (Gen. 8:3), I mean, on the 17th day of the seventh month (Gen. 8:4), no, it was ten months later (Gen. 8:5), perhaps it was after 40 days (Gen. 8:6), or for sure, the 27th day of the second month (Gen. 8:14). OK, whenever the waters receded, God did a mea culpa. Perhaps he regretted leaving all those smelly, water-soaked carcasses strewn in the path of the ark survivors. Gross! 

He promised, “Never again will all life be destroyed by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth” (Gen. 9:11). Don’t exhale yet. It doesn’t mean that God doesn’t plan to commit genocide again. Apparently, the scriptural God created a new batch of sinful kids. And He’s hopping mad about it.

But He’s holding to his promise: No more vicious flooding. This time, He plans to throw His sinful children into a fiery pit where they will writhe in pain throughout all eternity—because we won’t stop acting like we were born as sinners. It’s simply distressing. And no one was more concerned about it than my bus driver.

“They don’t know The Word’!” she declared, in a huff.

How ironic: It was Saturday. And Girlfriend was working. According to The Word, that infraction is punishable by death.

Do the faithful really believe that the Bible is the Word of God?

The Word of God? If a husband finds that his wife is not a virgin, she shall be stoned to death. Deut. 22:13-14I know what they tell the pollsters, their pastors and any potential person who needs to be saved from God’s demonic punishment. But how many Bible literalist would also insist that everyone who works on Saturday should be murdered? (Ex. 31:14) How many of them believe that women who are not virgins when they marry should be killed? (Deut. 22:13-21) Are they on board with murdering adulterers (Lev. 20:10 and Deut. 22:22) or disrespectful children (Ex. 21:17)?

Among the Blacks who believe the Bible is God’s word, how many believe that God said, “You may buy male and female slaves from among the nations that are around you. You may also buy from among the strangers…and they may be your property. You may bequeath them to your sons after you to inherit as a possession forever” (Lev. 25:44-46)?

While I, too, reject any depiction of God as violent, vindictive, unforgiving or anthropomorphic, as described in the Bible, I do not reject the concept of a Divine Presence, the invisible, invincible, immortal and everywhere present spirit that I call “God”. Do not mistake me: There is a lot of wisdom and truth in the Bible. But everything in the Bible does not offer wise, humane or moral solutions to human problems; so I cannot imagine that it is God’s word. I believe that God would be more consistent. God’s book wouldn’t command me not to kill AND then provide dozens of reasons for me to commit murder.

The argument generally is that God changed from the Old Testament to the New. So, God is not absolute? What changed from the Old Testament to the New was man’s concept of God—and it’s still evolving beyond rejection, and the excessive and demonic punishment that’s attributed to God and Jesus in the New Testament.

Perhaps I’m weird: Once I see something in a book that is blatantly untrue, hyperbolic or inconsistent, I conclude that it is not a non-fictional work. If a book asserts that God does things that are clearly inhumane and demonic, and that God mandates me to do horrific things such as stone someone to death, I am not convinced that it’s the Word of God. But I give loving allowance to those who believe God wants them to wear a fashionable orange jumpsuit for the rest of their lives.

I could be wrong; but I must make a choice. Worship a God who is divine and does what Love does, or worship the God in the Bible, who is frighteningly demonic. Am I off-base here?