8/24/15 Bart about 30
I asked a man deeply immersed in his book at Starbucks if he wouldn’t mind an interesting question. I asked my usual question about eternity – “What do you think happens after this life?” It’s a great question to open a conversation with – specific enough to begin a conversation of a spiritual nature but vague enough to include people at every level of belief or non-belief.
As it turned out, this began a long and interesting conversation with Bart, a civil litigation lawyer with a passion for reading and discussing great works of literature. Bart had grown up and was confirmed in a Presbyterian Church, but has long since rejected faith in God or belief in an afterlife. I found it interesting that since becoming an atheist Bart has nonetheless read the Bible entirely through, once from an RSV Bible and once from a King James Bible. How many Christians have read the entire Bible through twice?
I wanted to find out what would motivate him to do this, having already decided against faith in God. Most non-seekers would find reading the Bible to be a waste of their time, yet nothing Bart said made me think he was seeking God or answers to spiritual questions of any sort. He was just interested in learning more about the Bible on an intellectual basis. And that is just the point. It’s possible to read through the Bible for various reasons and miss its central purpose completely.
Imagine reading the Bible under the assumption that God does not exist and that its stories and accounts of the miraculous are just written and fabricated by man, and that these stories are just a random collection. It would be something like reading the stories of the various gods of Greek mythology – interesting but nothing more than entertainment. This might help us understand how the Bible could be life-changing for some people and nothing more than interesting reading for others.
I asked Bart what he thought was the meta-narrative, or big picture of the various books of the Bible, and was surprised that an avid reader of his level of education could so completely miss the Bible’s main point. He completely missed the “big story” of creation-fall-redemption-restoration, the role of Israel in God’s salvation plan, God’s purpose to glorify Himself, and, of course, Jesus! But Bart lost sight of these larger themes because of all he saw was a series of smaller stories that showed God gradually drifting away from people until the New Testament.
Generations before us had a level of biblical literacy that allowed the Gospel to make sense much more quickly to people because they saw how it fit into the larger plan of the Bible. But more and more people of our generation are biblically illiterate and need us to explain the larger narrative before we can share the Gospel with them. But are we ready to "go" and do so?