We were having a conversation the other day about Jerry Falwell and someone said they hoped he’d spend time in Purgatory. Another acquaintance, who is a very conservative Christian, responded with “That’s not an option. There is no Purgatory.”

“How do you know?” asked the first person.

“Because it’s not in the Bible. The Bible makes it very clear…” And off he went on a discourse about Biblical Truth. As an observer and as a Christian the whole interchange made me uncomfortable. My acquaintance was certain that there was no Purgatory. I don’t have certainty but I can’t say I believe in Purgatory.

What’s the difference?

I think the difference is humility and the importance of recognizing our limitations. We would like to have a complete and objective understanding of what the Bible says. The reality is that our “understandings” are always colored by our cultural background, our faith history and our tendency to look for confirmation and discard contradictions.

Could God make all this clear? Could God release an update or an appendix to the Bible that spells out in very specific language just what God meant?

Rob Bell again:

Is the Bible the best God can do? With God being so massive and awe-inspiring and full of truth, why is his book capable of so much confusion? Why did God do it this way?

I would love to have the answers. At one time I was certain I had them. I read the Bible and took it literally and was blissfully ignorant of translation and interpretation issues. I was obnoxious and pushy because I knew I had the truth and it was my duty to make others see it.

That is why Velvet Elvis seems to resonate so well with me.

This view of the Bible is warped and toxic, to say the least. The assumption is that there is a way to read the Bible that is agenda- and perspective-free. As if all these other people have their opinions and biases, but some are able to just read it for what it says…

I’m actually giving you my opinion, my interpretation of what it says. And the more I insist that I am giving you the objective truth of what it really says, the less objective I am actually being.

I didn’t understand this until recently. It’s liberating to not have to have certainty. My fear was that if I went in this direction then my faith would falter. The truth is I’m appreciating the ways my faith is starting to deepen.

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