David Koyzis at Evangel:
I personally know people who came to the faith, not by going to church or through a Christian friend, but simply by reading the Bible, a book they had not been familiar with up to then. They read it through in its entirety, including such grisly stories as that related in Judges 19-21. Despite the messiness and violence of the scriptural narrative, the Holy Spirit somehow managed to work in their hearts so that they were grabbed by it, fell in love with it and found their own place within it. They did not come to the Bible with the expectation that someone should make it “safe” for them. They never deemed it necessary to accept only those parts of scripture that they did not find offensive or that refrained from challenging their existing presuppositions. Far from it. They were cut to the quick, like the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:26-40) and the Philippian jailer (Acts 16:25-40), asking, not “Who can make the Bible palatable to me?”, but rather “What must I do to be saved?”
Like a microscope into their own soul, reading the Bible prompted them to repent and turn to God for mercy. If some people profess to find the Bible dangerous, perhaps the world could use more such danger.
A favorite joke amongst my friends and I is to come up with the most bizarre or strange verses we can find in Scripture and then file them away so if we’re ever asked to name our favorite biblical passage we can promptly respond with the outlandish text. From there, you just wait for the reaction. Personally, I like citing a verse from Judges 3:21-22:
21 Ehud reached with his left hand, drew the sword from his right thigh and plunged it into the king’s belly. 22 Even the handle sank in after the blade, and his bowels discharged. Ehud did not pull the sword out, and the fat closed in over it.
It’s something of a trope for the New Atheists to say “I became an atheist because I read the Bible.” It’s a response I understand, but those outlandish verses like the one I listed above don’t just make me laugh. They also give me a sense of pause when it comes to dismissing the Bible’s credibility. If the Bible really is fraudulent, really is just trying to market a bill of non-existent goods, why would those sorts of texts make it in? For that matter, why would the crucifixion make it in? You’re telling me that the crucifixion was a convenient text for missionaries to people who worshiped Thor and Odin? Or, more to the point when it comes to textual veracity, that it was a convenient text for missionaries to imperial Rome?
Explaining away the Bible as something some religious kook on a power play made up to enslave people is hard for me to accept. If the biblical authors’ intentions really were that cynical, I’d expect to find something much more like scientology: a system of belief that wallpapers over difficulties and creates a system of rewards for those in power. Say what you will about Christianity and the Bible, but it isn’t that. Read Paul in Romans 9 or the prophets in the Old Testament. They deal with hard questions head on. Read the stories of some of our greatest biblical heroes. The Bible doesn’t shy away from the weaknesses of our ecclesiological ancestors. The Bible is, in Koyzis’ words, loaded – that’s part of why I believe it.