Others had said something similar. But it was during a dark time in my life that, through the novels and Unspoken Sermons of Scottish author and poet, George MacDonald (1824-1905), I began to take to heart— what I now believe to be some of the most helpful counsel and caution I’ve ever heard:
If, while reading the Bible, you come across something that doesn’t seem to rise to the level of a good and loving God, don’t feel compelled by faith or fear to embrace or reject it. Instead reserve judgment. Prayerfully wait for a better understanding.
Time and history seem to be on the side of humility when it comes to believing in God at the expense of our minds, hearts, or neighbors. Widely accepted interpretations of the Bible (regarding presumptions about a flat earth, a sun that revolves around us, race, slavery, the time of Jesus’ return, the silence of women etc) have turned out to be possible but not necessary ways of reading Scripture.
I am so grateful for the courage of those who, at the risk of their own reputation, have urged us to conclude that it is better to live with mystery— and to wonder what we might be missing— than to embrace widely held, possible interpretations of Scripture (including possible but not necessary interpretations of the words of Jesus) that don’t rise to the level of One we would want to trust and love with all of our heart, strength, and mind.