Saturday, December 1, 2007

I wouldn't call Mitt Romney a Bibliolator just yet


RedBlueChristian links to this account of a recent Republican debate.

Q I'm Joseph. I'm from Dallas, Texas. And how you answer this question will tell us everything we need to know about you. Do you believe every word of this book? (Shows a Bible.) And I mean specifically this book that I'm holding in my hand. Do you believe this book?

This is a question that is known as a land mine. All political parties, including the Libertarians, try to be all things to all people, and try to be as inclusive as possible. So no matter how you answer this question, you're gonna make someone mad.

First up, Giuliani.

Okay. The reality is, I believe it, but I don't believe it necessarily literally true in every single respect. I think there are parts of the Bible that are interpretive. I think there are parts of the Bible that are allegorical. I think there are parts of the Bible that are meant to be interpreted in a modern context.

So, yes, I believe it. I think it's the greatest book ever written. I read it frequently. I read it very frequently when I've gone through the bigger crises in my life, and I find great wisdom in it. And it does define, to a very large extent, my faith. But I don't believe every single thing in the literal sense of Jonah being in the belly of the whale. You know, there are some things in it that I think were put there as allegorical.

Next up, Romney.

I believe the Bible is the word of God, absolutely. (Applause.) And I try to live by it as well as I can, but I miss in a lot of ways. But it's a guide for my life and for hundreds of millions, billions of people around the world. I believe in the Bible....

You know -- yeah, I believe it's the word of God. The Bible is the word of God. I mean, I might interpret the word differently than you interpret the word, but I read the Bible and I believe the Bible is the word of God. I don't disagree with the Bible. I try to live by it.


Sure, I believe the Bible is exactly what it is. It's the word of revelation to us from God himself. (Applause.) And the fact is that when people ask do we believe all of it, you either believe it or you don't believe it.

But in a greater sense, I think what the question tried to make us feel like was that, well, if you believe the part that says, "Go and pluck out your eye" -- well, none of us believe that we ought to go pluck out our eye. That obviously is allegorical.

But the Bible has some messages that nobody really can confuse and really not left up to interpretation: "Love your neighbor as yourself," "Inasmuch as you've done it to the least of these brethren, you've done it unto me." Until we get those simple, real easy things right, I'm not sure we ought to spend a whole lot of time fighting over the other parts that are a little bit complicated.

And as the only person here probably on this stage with a theology degree, there are parts of it I don't fully comprehend and understand, but I'm not supposed to, because the Bible is a revelation of an infinite God, and no finite person is ever going to fully understand it. If they do, their God is too small. (Applause.)

For the moment I'll ignore the relevance of the question in the context of governing this particular nation, since theism doesn't necessarily limit itself to the baby seal clubber end of the political spectrum. Let's just look at the views expressed by the three people above.

  • It's hard to tell with Giuliani based upon a quick sound bite, but his response emphasizes the wisdom found within the Bible, and while I hold that this is NOT the most important thing within the Bible's pages, one certainly cannot ignore the wisdom found therein.
  • Romney's response was the reason that RedBlueChristian highlighted the debate, specifically because of past and present Mormon statements on the relevance of the Bible in light of other books (Doctrine and Covenants, et al) and the words of the living Prophet. Frankly, I think Romney's statement doesn't necessarily contradict those past statements from the Church; "I might interpret the word differently than you interpret the word" could very well mean "I believe the word is corrupted beyond repair."

  • Huckabee's statement makes it clear that the Bible is not a simple, comprehensible book. Again, it's hard to base an analysis on a sound bite, but I liked two of Huckabee's points: namely, that (1) limited-brain humankind cannot comprehend the depths of God's knowledge, and (2) why are we worrying about non-essentials when we can't even get the basics right?
Heck, we can't even master three verses of the Bible:

Matthew 22:37-39 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

37Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.'[a] 38This is the first and greatest commandment. 39And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'[b]


[a] Matthew 22:37 Deut. 6:5
[b] Matthew 22:39 Lev. 19:18

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