Adam Hamilton, founder and lead pastor of Church of the Resurrection in Kansas City, has produced a long line of books and resources but Making Sense of the Bible is the first that I’d call a thoroughly accessible seminary class. Beginning with the origins of the Bible, the book takes us through three-hundred-pages of exploration into how the Bible was formed, what we should understand about its nature, and why its contents are relevant for the lives we live two thousand years after it was written down.
The “fifteen minute version” of both the Old and New Testament is written so that anyone could follow it, and none of the contents in between really stretches beyond the most straightforward United Methodist understanding of the Bible. It’s not until the section called “Questions about the Nature of Scripture” that I imagine some eyebrows (not mine) will go up as Hamilton examines, a third of the way in, what it means for the Bible to be God’s inspired word and whether it’s inerrant. [That’s actually putting it too directly– it’s more what kind of inerrancy we’re talking about.]
The final third is solidly around several issues, many of which Hamilton discussed in When Christians Get It Wrong but some of which get a different twist to their explanation, often more deeply. Can Christians be scientists (evolution believers, for short)? How does Hamilton understand the stories of creation, Noah, etc.? What do we do with the apparent difference between the ‘nature’ of God in the Old and New Testaments? How do we handle the problem of evil? Are Christians exclusive?
It would seem, based on his outspoken and compassionate proposal of changes to the United Methodist Book of Discipline, that the book is set up to get us to a thoughtful take on Chapter 29, which discusses the current hot-button issue in the UM church, if not the world: homosexuality. Hamilton argues for what might cause some to reflect with thoughtfulness and others to get defensive, that maybe we’ve taken the verses that talk about (or appear to talk about) homosexuality out of context. That alone is enough of a discussion starter!
One of my favorite passages in the book sets us up to reconsider many of our “sacred cows” in church, as Hamilton points out that Jesus’ most important commandment (in response to the rich young ruler in Matthew 22) was to love God and love your neighbor: “These seem to have been the interpretive lens (scholars might call it Jesus’s ‘defining hermeneutical principle’) by which Jesus read the whole of his Bible.” It makes you stop and wonder how you’d read the Bible in its entirety, if you were Jesus, and if there’s anything you might take another way. It’s food for thought, as Hamilton again digs into the ‘same old Scripture’ and comes back with articulations that make us reflect on who we are in relationship to God and each other.