The Bible really isn't a 'nice' book

Would you read an obscene publication?

Would you read a book that detailed acts of violence, rape and cannibalism?

According to this report from ABC Newsonline the Television and Entertainments Licensing Authority (TELA) in Hong Kong, which oversees the publishing industry, said it had received 208 complaints that text within the Bible is indecent.

The complaints were apparently sparked by a Chinese language website which called on readers to pressure TELA to reclassify the Bible as an indecent publication.

While the calls to label the Bible as obscene are obviously a stunt, we do need to face the fact that there are some fairly unsavoury passages in the Christian holy book.

I guess that’s one of the things I like about the Bible. It’s about real life. In real life nasty stuff does happen. That doesn’t mean that God approves of all the violence and evil that lurks in our world but it does mean that he’s not trying to sweep it under the carpet.

Over the years we’ve turned Christianity into a nice, safe set of beliefs for good people. I really don’t understand how that happened. If you read through the Bible you see that life is messy, even for God’s people.

David is one of the Bible’s heroes yet he stole another man’s wife then had the husband killed.God didn’t condone that behaviour but he did show David forgiveness and let him move on with his life. Unfortunately a lot of Christians aren’t so willing to forgive.

When Jesus wandered the earth 2000 or so years back he was accused of all kinds of things including hanging out with prostitutes and drunks. We sometimes like to think that Jesus only met with such people to turn them into ‘nice’ people but the Bible doesn’t support that view. He ate with them and spent time building relationship with them. He knew that they were just people trying to do the best they could with what they had. He wanted them to see that there was more to life, that life could be fuller and richer, that their past didn’t have to dictate their future.

I’m glad that the Bible records the messy parts of life. It lets me know that I’m not alone when I stuff up …. regularly. I don’t have to be caught up with guilt. The Bible lets me know that being a follower of Jesus isn’t about behaving well and having a neat life.

Whether those in Hong Kong are successful in having the Bible labeled as obscene or not I’ll continue to draw strength and hope from its pages. Yes it does document some fairly horrendous events but it also provides a way to leave the past in the past and move toward a more fulfilling future.

Posted by Rodney Olsen

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About the author

Rodney Olsen

Rodney is a husband, father, cyclist, blogger and podcaster from Perth Western Australia.

He previously worked in radio for about 25 years but these days he spends his time at Compassion Australia, working towards releasing children from poverty in Jesus' name.

The views he expresses here are his own.

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  • I’ve found that it’s easy to ‘gloss over’ those not so nice parts of the bible. We had Rocfish at our church last week, and they did the story of Esther – a very cleaned up version. But the new Veggietales dvd ‘Moe and the big exit’ actually incorporated the plague of the first-born ‘they sent them down the river’.

  • While teaching Sunday School, often my students became wide eyed at some of the Old Testament stories. As if they couldn’t believe that such corruption existed way back then. I often teased them saying, You think it’s YOUR generation that invented sin? I took advantage to tell them that in the Bible we can know that there is rarely anything new under the sun, and reminded them that God warns us, “as when in the days of Noah…”

    God destroyed the entire earth with a flood. It had to be ‘that bad’ for God to do that. God said it will be that bad again. But this time the destruction will be with fire.

    I also remember my pediatrician to my children, explaining her rejection of the old Testament, “There are too many imperfect people in there.”
    When she said that, I remember explaining to her, “That is the beauty of the book though! It shows us how God loves us, and uses us even in our sin!” I also reminded her, we aren’t so perfect now.

    Those readers in Hong Kong are missing the whole message. The Bible points out what’s out there, and provides the ANSWER.

    And, similar obsenities can be found in our daily newspapers. The Bible has the ANSWER to that too.

  • Great post! I too remember when I first became a Christian at age 18 and started reading the Bible, I was shocked at some of the activities so bluntly stated in the Old Testament. I certainly shows that humans have always been sinful and it didn’t start in the 1960s.

    The Bible a ‘nice’ book? No, but it’s rebuking, challenging, encouraging, uplifting and humbling.

  • The Bible lets me know that being a follower of Jesus isn’t about behaving well and having a neat life.

    I agree.

    I agree with you on this, but I’m having a bit of cognitive dissonance since I just got done listening to the interview with the authors of Growing Kids God’s Way linked on your site.

    Throughout the interview I was struck with the the vision of Christianity that they articulated — it was all about exhibiting a moral life based on virtues gleaned from the moral character of God.

    Even when you specifically framed a question that invited them to share how GKGW is about much more than behavior, your guests stayed with the theme of moral behavior. They explained that their material is not content with securing outwardly controlled good behavior alone, but seeks good behavior that springs from internalizing certain “moral reasons why”.

    But that’s still a vision of Christianity that is about behaving oneself.

    You took up the subject of children who grow up and no longer have their parents controlling their outward behavior, observing that this leaves the children ill equipped to self-govern their behavior. True. Ezzo took it a long step further and warned that many children, whose parents raised them with Christian influence, church and youth group attendance, will “walk away from everything”. The remedy for this, he said, is to raise children who are “moral on the inside” because “that will take care of a lot of the issues on the outside.”

    But he did not define what “moral on the inside” would mean, and throughout the interview it seemed to be equated with having the ability to use “moral reasoning” or “moral logic” or to have an understanding of the “moral reason why” a certain behavior would be desirable.

    I hope I am not seeming to pick nits when I say that in the context of a Christian radio program, discussing specifically Christian parenting, the answer of making our children “moral on the inside” doesn’t seem adequate.

    I would have liked to hear more from them about central Christian concepts such as regeneration and grace for sinners and a little less about relying on being “moral on the inside”. As you said, good behavior is not really what following Christ is about.

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