Here’s an interesting exercise for you: summarize the Bible in one sentence. A bunch of theologians and pastors took a stab at it, and failed to escape their preconceptions and say anything that made any sense.
The statements all vary in their length and their floweriness, but I picked this one example because it’s fairly clear and representative. This is a one-sentence summary of the Bible by a Christian pastor:
A holy God sends his righteous Son to die for unrighteous sinners so we can be holy and live happily with God forever.
That is an empty statement, one that explains nothing and simply sits there looking absurd. I don’t understand how anyone can commit themselves to a life spent promoting that kind of nonsense; these people really should try taking their summaries and looking at them carefully to try and see the peculiarity of their claims.
I’m not cherry-picking, either. Here are a couple more examples just so you can see the general thrust of the arguments.
God was so covenantally committed to the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him may have eternal life!
God is redeeming his creation by bringing it under the lordship of Jesus Christ.
The message of the Bible is the transforming grace of God displayed preeminently in Jesus Christ.
The good news is that they all mostly agree with one another. The Bible is about a god who is trying to get people into his heaven by asking them to believe a story about his son being killed and rising from the dead.
The bad news is that the story makes no sense. I’ll give them the existence of their god as a premise, just as I’d grant Herman Melville the existence of Ahab as the start of his story. But what follows doesn’t work. This god has a son — there’s a whole story there that is glossed over. It rather anchors the deity into the prosaic, doesn’t it? He’s a discrete being with an anthropomorphic capacity for procreation. OK, let’s just give them that as a premise, too, although my experience with theologians is that they’ll sit there endlessly arguing with you over that detail.
But then it gets sillier. He sends this son to us to die. He dies? So he’s not an immortal god? Oh, wait, he doesn’t really die, he bounces back a day and a half later, and again, Christian theologians will weeble at you incessantly about how Jesus really is their god, their one true god, who is part of a trinity.
And then that bit about his death “redeeming” us? No way. That makes no sense. If I commit a crime, having someone else suffer 2000 years ago for some other crime that is completely unrelated to what I did does not have any logical connection at all to absolving me of guilt. It’s simply crazy talk, theological noise.
I have my own one-sentence summary of the Christian bible. It actually fits well with human behavior, unlike the prattling nonsense of theologians.
Here is a long tome containing fractured history and arbitrary and patently ridiculous rules that, if you say you believe them, will represent a costly signal to indicate that you are a committed member of our tribe.
Or if that’s too long for you, “Be stupid and belong.” Theology then fills the same role as frat-house hazing or blood-brother rituals, and all the contributors to that list of summaries can be proud brothers together in blissful inanity. It’s clubhouse psychology.
I can even sympathize a bit with that purpose. Lots of organizations have similar trials to secure their membership. Even science does this: we’ve all been through that long gauntlet of calculus and chemistry and basic physics. The difference is that scientists are expected to master something difficult and useful, not bullshit.