Wednesday, April 10, 2019

The Bible is a dangerous book

A stock objection to the Protestant faith is the rote claim that Scripture is a blueprint for anarchy without an infallible interpreter. It's dangerous to put the Bible in the hands of the laity. 

There's a gain of truth to that. There are readers who lack a responsible hermeneutic. Making the Bible as an open book is risky.

However, we can turn that around. It's dangerous when a particular class has a monopoly on the interpretation of Scripture. For instance, Southern slave masters wanted to keep slaves illiterate. Wanted to keep the Bible out of the hands of slaves. They wanted to retain hermeneutical hegemony. That ultimately failed because it was in direct conflict with nature of the Protestant faith. 

Slave masters were right to fear what would happen when slaves could read the Bible for themselves. When they suddenly had access to the entire Bible, and not just safe prooftexts spoonfed to them by their masters. The Bible was a threat to the status quo; a threat to the ruling class. 

Scripture is often attacked for failing to offer an explicit, blanket condemnation of slavery. Ironically, I always see this objection lodged by white atheists. By contrast, Southern slaves were quick to pick up on the countercultural message of Scripture. Quick to discern an analogy between the bondage of the Israelites in Egypt and Ole Massa as Pharaoh. The Bible in the hands of a slave was a loaded gun pointed at the head of the Antebellum establishment. 

The Bible is a dangerous book. That's why secular regimes outlaw the Bible. They know that putting a Bible in the hands of the proletariat is subversive to the totalitarian pretensions of the regime. That's a recipe for revolution. 

1 comment:

  1. > The Bible is a dangerous book. That's why secular regimes outlaw the Bible.

    Quite. I've seen Christians writing articles about what's happening in China, where the government is cracking down on Christianity, saying "no, no, Christianity is no threat to the Chinese state, relax!". These leave me pondering the situation whereby the Communist Party understands the nature of the Bible, and its achievements in history, far better than professing evangelical Christians.