Wednesday, October 10, 2007

A Non-Christian "Living Biblically"

I don't know very many agnostics who know the Bible well, but in this case, this guy really knows it well. Or does he? Can an agnostic learn something by doing his best to "live biblically?"

Author A.J. Jacobs just recently published his new book, The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible. He carried around a list of 700 rules he read out of the Bible, and for a whole year, did his best to obey them. He admits that he didn't do that great of a job by saying, "I was able to cut down on my coveting maybe 40 percent, but I was still a coveter. Flat-screen TVs...a better cell phone...not to mention coveting my neighbor's wife." Other obscure rules included not cutting his hair, wearing white, not cursing, and stoning adulterers.

Of course, he missed one rule that Jesus instructed in Matthew 18:8, "If your hand or foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; it is better for you to enter life crippled or lame, than to have two hands or two feet and be cast into the eternal fire." Hmm... I seriously doubt that rule was on his list.

What Jacobs (along with many non-Christians and Christians too) fails to see is that the Bible is not just a rulebook. It is God's word to us. Just like when we talk to each other. Sometimes we summarize, sometimes we are specific. Sometimes we are very literal, sometimes figurative. Sometimes using similes, sometimes metaphors. Sometimes we are angry, and sometimes we are gentle. God speaks to us through the Bible in the same ways.

This is kind of a funny experiment that Jacobs does and I'd definitely be interested to read his reflections on it. However, he completely misses the main point that Jesus highlights in Mark 12 about what it means to live biblically. Jesus said that the most important command that He gives us is to love God more than anything else. And that means that if you obey all the rules in the Bible except that one, then it's all pretty much worthless. So sad.

Image from the article.