by Dan Balow
I always thought it was interesting that Christian publishers employed Bible editors. Of course, they are not there to edit the Bible text, but to work on the extra-Bible notes and additional material that might end up in a study or devotional Bible.
It got me thinking that there is a lot of stuff in the Bible that is just downright disturbing if you want to maintain a simplistic easy-to-accept view of God. So, if I set out to edit the Bible text, what material could I personally do without? Here are some things I would rather not have in the Bible: (There are others, but these just come to mind)
- Cain killing Abel episode in Genesis 4
- Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19
- Numbers 14:26-33 – Moses and Aaron are not allowed to enter the promised land.
- Isaiah 55:8 – My thoughts are not your thoughts…
- Matthew 6:12, Matthew 6:14-15 – If you don’t forgive others, then I won’t forgive you.
- Matthew 7 – Judge not
- Luke 12: 49-53 – Jesus causes division.
- Acts 5 – Ananias and Sapphira
- If you do all things well, but not love, the truth is not in you (1 Cor. 13:1-3)
- And the toughest passage in the Bible…”I never knew you” in Matthew 7:23
Of course, this is tongue-in-cheek, but I have always felt that one of the facts that validate the authenticity of Scripture is that it contains real life. Let’s face it, most of Scripture is the story of sinful people doing sinful things and God responding, with the ultimate response (so far) in the atoning work of Jesus Christ.
Most books that draw the ire of orthodox Christians or are rejected for publication by Christian publishers in effect, edit the Bible. An author might want to focus only on one aspect of God to make a point, ignoring the totality of a Holy God who is not only holy, but is infinitely holy.
This is one minefield that comes up for self-published Christian books. The potential for theology that amounts to “editing the Bible” is much greater when there are no critical eyes involved in the editorial process. A significant role of the traditional Christian publisher is to hold authors to a theological standard.
So, authors of Christian books have a heavy load to carry. How do you write a story with Christian content that on one hand should have us quaking in our boots over a holy God who will judge the living and the dead and also portray his boundless, limitless, restoring grace? And don’t forget, to entertain, inform and give hope!
Writing for children might be a lot simpler. We teach about a God who loves us, forgives us, heals us and feeds us. He always kills the giant, cures us from disease and acts in a predictable way.
In the world of a mature Christian we learn that God is very complex in the way he deals with things. He answers prayers in different ways than we want (sometimes with a “no”). He will cure someone of cancer to show his power and glory, then allow a Christian to die from cancer so others see His grace in action…giving that person a joy and peace amidst the pain that is completely beyond understanding. In both cases, God is glorified.
The Bible is sure complicated, but makes for great stories.
What things do you find most difficult to portray in a story?