You can view the Dallas Morning News piece here, but I’m not sure how long it will be up before it’s behind a paywall, so you can find it in its entirety below. He’s the son of an SBC pastor, I’m not sure what that might mean, but thought it was relevant to point out.
What a week for religion. The pope experiences his final day in the comfy chair. Pat Robertson declares that demons can live in thrift store sweaters. And Robert Jeffress implies that Tim Tebow is a wimp for not standing up for God’s truth.
For the record, I think the tired pope should get testosterone therapy and move to Florida. I think Robertson was correct. (I have two thrift store sweaters that are demonic based on smell alone.) And I think Jeffress is mistaken. He doesn’t want Tebow to stand up for God’s truth. He wants Tebow to stand up for Jeffress’ understanding of God’s truth.
Do you remember the old black-and-white movie The Invisible Man? The defining characteristic of the Invisible Man wasn’t that he was a Crimson Tide fan or that he got political at open-bar Christmas parties. His defining quality was that he was invisible. So in the movie, the Invisible Man had to be wrapped in bulky Ace bandages, cinched trench coats, and novelty-store sunglasses. He looked ridiculous, but since we can only see the Invisible Man when we put clothes on him, it was a good workaround. But we should never mistake the clothes for the man.
God is like our Invisible Man. Through the ages, we’ve draped many suits on him, then spent a lifetime mistaking our clothes for the real him. It’s no surprise we pick the stuff from our wardrobe that appeals to our psyches the most. Anne Lamott once said, “You can safely assume that you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.” Show me a person who emphasizes the judgment of God, and I’ll show you a person who likes making judgments. Show me a person who goes on and on about God’s view on sexuality, and I’ll show you someone who is very interested in the goings on of sexuality. It’s all understandable, but I don’t think many realize that they do it.
Jeffress has taken the palette of the Bible and painted his portrait of God, and he thinks it’s correct because it’s “biblical.” The problem is that the Bible is a collection of other men’s portraits of God. All instructive. All important. All of them portraits. Necessary clothes for the Invisible Man. Jeffress is entitled to his portrait of God, but it doesn’t mean Tebow has to fly in to D/FW and publicly buy a numbered print.
People are very scared to question the Bible. I don’t know why. I’ve never understood why we let the patina of antiquity lend authority to things we’d never accept without it. When we fetishize antiquity, we blunt our ability to listen to the word of God currently being written. In books, plays and prayers. If God is still whispering into the hearts of men and women, why is it a stretch to think that humans can no longer transcribe that dictation? If we lose our blind allegiance to antiquity, we will gain a more useful portrait of a meaningful God through fresh Scripture.
There’s a funny old saying: “If the King James Bible was good enough for the apostle Paul, it’s good enough for me.” People actually think this way. They don’t appreciate the human process that went into the creation of our biblical canon. I swear my great-aunt thought Jesus handed Peter a copy of the King James during the Ascension.
I contend that the Bible is still being written, and if you are wondering what gives us the right to question Scripture, it’s the same thing that gave us the right to translate it in the first place. It’s a book about God. Not God himself. One is more important than the other.
To all those fence-sitters, I say: If the Bible as we know it is the thing keeping you from our immanent God, let go of the Bible. Work out a portrait of God that you can love and that can love you back. Yes, you’re allowed to do that. That’s what men have always done. Whether it’s Paul the Apostle, Luke the physician or anyone else in the distant past who used the limits of language to clothe a limitless God. Don’t worry. There won’t be chaos without the absolute authority of the Bible. God is bigger than the sum of all those jots and tittles.
I may not be a scholar, but I’m not a wimp.
Gordon Keith is an Emmy-winning broadcaster and writer. He can be heard weekday mornings from 5:30 to 10 on The Ticket, KTCK-AM (1310). Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.