Book Plunge: Is The Bible At Fault?

What do I think of Jerry Pattengale’s book published by Worthy Books? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

The Bible has been used to teach good moral lessons to people for thousands of years. We can look in American history at the McGuffey Readers which helped teach children how to read and taught them how to live well based on the Bible. There is even the old story about an atheist debating a theist (I don’t remember if he was a Jew or a Christian) and the theist asked the skeptic, “If you found yourself in the streets of the city late at night and your car broken down and you saw a door open to a building and out came ten big, burly men heading toward you, would it or would it not make a difference if you knew that they were coming from a Bible study?”

Humorous, but we get the point. This makes the Bible sound really good, and I think it is naturally, but unfortunately, we also know that all good things can be misused. The Bible has been a tool for wonderful character development, but too many have misused it.

This book looks at the misuses and asks if the Bible is at fault. Were these people doing a proper interpretation of Scripture or were they misusing it to justify actions that were definitely evil. We move throughout time even looking at present situations in this book.

A lot of these I had never heard of. Some I had and these were obvious ones, but the reading was still interesting. The KKK is one we have all heard of, but to hear the way they interpreted the text was quite interesting. Even the biggest critic of Scripture should realize the point of Jonah and the whale is not that a Jew is so repulsive that a whale has to vomit him up.

Another one I had heard of was Andrew Hamblin. This is a guy I dealt with years ago when I moved back to Tennessee the first time. He holds church services involving the handling of poisonous snakes where they take literalistically the passage about taking up serpents. Strangely enough, they don’t drink poison from what I normally see. Not a shock but a number of people have died in this practice.

A number of these cases I have never heard of. Some older readers might have. These included a cult group in Michigan called the House of David and a figure known as Prophet Jones who chose to use the Bible to make himself rich. I am certain some readers remember the latter from their own lifetime.

There are also cases of misreading the text in apocalyptic fervor. Thankfully, nothing like that happens today. No one today is doing anything like using the Bible to try to determine when the “rapture” will take place. Oh. Hold on. Someone is handing me a note here….

In history there were cases that were just bizarre. You had the Phibionites who were apparently drinking actual blood in the Communion service. Not only was it blood, but it was menstrual blood at that. The group also had orgies holding wives in common. Big shock that this group tarnished the name of Christianity.

Some Protestants including myself think that Catholics and Orthodox have gone way too far in their treatment of Mary, and we can debate that, but we would all agree that Tanchelm of Antwerp in the 12th century definitely went too far. This is a guy who in a church service actually married a statue of the Virgin Mary. Again, we should be thankful we are past the day and age where this happened and people no longer want to marry strange objects like statues and….wait….I’m being handed another note….

Many bad readings have very disastrous results. Two major examples are the killing fields in the Crusades and the treatment of the Aborigines in Australia. Both of these led to the destruction of various people on a mass scale.

At the end of each chapter, Pattengale explains the interpretation that was thought to be biblical in the first part. After that, he points out how the misuse actually departed from Biblical Orthodoxy. Then he gives the type of problem that took place and what the antidote would be.

I consider this a fascinating way to look at Scripture and a book like this begs to be a continuing series as there are even more instances we can use, but this one is a good start. Not only do you get good interpretation, you also get a look at history showing movements most of us haven’t heard of. For example, there were many cult groups in Christian history and I hadn’t heard of the Phibionites that I remembered.

I would like to see this book dealing with other issues that are hot button issues. What about slavery in the time of the Civil War? What about modern day sex scandals? How do modern politicians on both sides of the aisle misuse the Bible?

I hope Pattengale will continue this pathway. It’s one that needs to be dealt with and we need to keep in mind Augustine’s rule. You never judge a philosophy by its misuse. May we never judge the Bible by its misuse.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)
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