Recently I spent some time in my native Pennsylvania. Doing so sometimes makes me believe in a bizarre kind of predestination. I never had any truck with theological fore-ordainment; I’d rather just give up and get it all over with now. Nevertheless, the Bible was very present in the Pennsylvania of my youth and logic dictates that if something is, a priori, more important than everything else, only a fool wouldn’t pay attention. When we’d be driving along a country road and a prominent outcropping of rock was spray painted with “Jesus Saves,” I’d feel a quiet reassurance that my choices had been sound. I started reading the Bible as a child, toughing it through Leviticus and Chronicles, with true Protestant fervor. The Bible, I believed, could never let you down.
On my recent drive down memory lane, I passed a road sign advertising the sacred scriptures. It read “The Holy Bible. Inspired. Absolute. Final.” There was a number to call, ending with the words “for truth” in place of digits. Operator. Information. Get me Jesus on the line. (With apologies to Sister Wynona Carr.) The odd thing is that I always assumed this was normal. Ticking off the miles on Interstate 80, I used to see how many “Jesus Saves” graffiti I could find on overpass pylons. Even in Manhattan I still find the same phrase scrawled in the cement of a grimy sidewalk, and I always look for it when I walk that way. It was all so matter-of-fact that there seemed to be no reason to question any of it. The same held true for most of the faculty at Grove City College. No questions asked. Just read the highway signs.
Ambiguity toward the Gospel truth seemed wrongheaded and foolhardy. It is, however, difficult to take the Bible seriously without at last beginning to ask questions. Even the Bible has a backstory. Be careful how far back you turn the pages. There was a prequel to Genesis, for those who dare to look, just as their is a sequel to Revelation. Inspired—no doubt. Absolute—perhaps. Final—I doubt it. The last word comes only when all has been said and done, and given the signs I see along the road, it looks like this journey is only just getting started.
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