A couple of weeks ago I was on a plane. I was flying Southwest, something I haven't done as much since moving to Dallas. It's great to only be 15 minutes from DFW. But I was A1, first on the plane, and firmly ensconced in the exit row aisle seat.
The flight was fairly full, and about 3/4 of the way through boarding, a man sat in the middle seat next to me. He wasn't a big guy, so I didn't think too much of it. But he had a big Bible. One of those big King James versions, well worn leather. Lot's of study notes in the margin.
I'm about 95% sure he was from an independent Baptist, KJV-only, premillenial, extremely conservative tradition. I myself spent some time in that tradition. About 6 months. For a girl. Then I got run off for my views on Christian rock music. But that's another story, one I have told here...
As we started to take off, I commented to him, nodding at the Bible, "good reading?" "The best," he said, and then made several platitudes about the inspiration of every word, and how God speaks to us in all of it.
It's not that I disagree with that statement. I don't. I very much agree that God speaks to us through the Bible. But the platitudenal way he said it struck me as odd. Not odd as in an unusual thing that I wasn't familiar with, but odd as in the "my system requires me to jump through all the hoops necessary to make the Bible fit my belief system" odd. There is a form of inerrancy that mandates a manipulation of texts to fit a man-made system of belief about the Bible. I've written about it before. I think it's bibliolatry.
So instead of just letting it go at this point, I threw out one of my favorite statements--"tough to find some good stuff in Leviticus where God speaks to us today..." and before I could go on he had already jumped in with the (dare I say very-looking-down-on-the-poor-soul-next-to-him) attitudenal "if you know what you're looking for, God can speak to you through every word in Leviticus."
Hmm. Another good opp to let the conversation subside. But I just couldn't.
"So why do you think that it commands us to 'not boil a young goat in its mother's milk'? And, since every Bible teach I know of says that when a command appears multiple times, what should we make of the fact that this command is so important as to warrant not one but two appearances?"
"Interesting" was his only reply. Little did I know the worms that were festering. But honestly I started working on something else, and he started thumbing through the very large concordance at the back of his larger Bible, looking up various passages. I kinda stopped paying attention.
But as we touched down in San Antonio, he turns my way and says, "I think I've got your answers for you." Honestly, I was dumbstruck. Had I asked any questions? But answers he had, two to be exact. And quite frankly, I can't remember exactly what they were. Right now I wished I had paid better attention. All I remember is that they were some vague things that evangelicals generally believe, like one had something to do with the importance of family relationships, that he was now using these verses as pretexts for.
Now again, before you get your stakes out for heretic-burning, let me restate that I love the Bible. I believe it is God's story shared with us. Leviticus has many things that are deep and abiding truths that still speak to us today. But quite frankly, someone's man-made system of biblical interpretation that cannot allow that many commands in that part of the book were meant only for a group of nomad/shepherds, who for generations had lived as slaves in another culture, but who now were moving into new areas both urban and rural, has no choice but to develop a bunch of off-the-wall explanations to make verses still be relevant in some way today. So don't boil a young goat in its mother's milk has to do with honoring family relations.
As I told Sandra this story, she asked a great question: what do you think that guy is telling his friends about this encounter? Hmm, that made me think. Hard. Was I any better at moving him toward a deeper faith and understanding of God and the Bible than he was me? Does he tell his friends about this poor liberal almost-Christian he met on a plane, who didn't believe in "inerrant inspiration of the Bible"?
I hope...well, I'm not sure what I hope. I hope that the God who motivates us both to be passionate about understanding and obeying him reveals himself to us both.