The Less We Use This, the More Relevant It Will Become.
I predict that the Bible is going to increase in its relevance in the near future. To explain, I’d like to tell two boat stories.
Boat #1 – A Disposable Raft
The founder of Buddhism was a man named Gautama who found enlightenment. He then gathered together a group of monks and nuns to help them find enlightenment. This original Buddhism was laser-focused on training monks and nuns, not everyday people. Later, after Gautama had died, a group of Buddhists decided to branch off from this monk- and nun-centered form of Buddhism and to teach that literally anybody could become enlightened given the correct techniques.
One of the sacred texts of these more inclusive Buddhists (called Mahayana Buddhists) was the Lotus Sutra. The Lotus Sutra argues that Gautama taught only the partial truth—how monks and nuns could find enlightenment—but that, now the Buddhists needed to discard this form of Buddhism and embrace a more everybody-centered Buddhism.
One of the Lotus Sutra’s parables is the parable of the raft. Once the raft carries you across the river, you don’t continue carrying it around, do you?
To continue to carry the raft around after it has outlived its usefulness would be cumbersome and awkward.
No, you leave the raft at the water’s edge and continue on your journey. In the same way, according to the Lotus Sutra, Gautama’s original teachings helped us at the outset of our journey, but now we need to drop them and move on with our journey toward greater truth.
Boat #2: A Secure Ark
Because of a coming flood, God told Noah to build an ark which would preserve him, his family, and the various kinds of animals, as well as anyone else who took Noah’s warning seriously. Noah spent decades building the ark, and for all those decades without rain, his neighbors must have ridiculed the apparent alarmist mercilessly. For decades, the ark under construction would have been cumbersome and awkward. Then it started raining.
In some ways, Noah’s ark is like the Lotus Sutra’s raft, but in reverse.
The raft was something helpful at first, but then it became cumbersome, awkward, and unnecessary. The ark seemed cumbersome, awkward, and unnecessary, until it became profoundly necessary.
The Bible’s Emerging Relevance
You will meet plenty of progressive Christians and ex-Christians who see the Bible as if it was the Lotus Sutra’s raft: helpful for a time, but something to outgrow on our journey toward greater truth. The Bible helped them develop some character, but as far as the Bible’s central claims? Time to leave them behind. After all, is the world really under the cosmic influence of a satanic force such as the Bible describes? Are people really as sinful as the Bible claims them to be? Is forgiveness of sins by a divine sacrifice really necessary anymore when we have nonreligious ways of building character and relieving guilt?
A post-Christian culture that discards God and biblical truth is about to find out just how dark the world can be.
A post-Christian secularism becomes unsatisfying and invites darker spiritualities. An emerging, violent post-truth tribalism will bring back to memory the exiled concept of spiritual “lostness.” Banishing a good God from public relevance will create a vacuum for more sinister spirits. Ones that western culture has long read about in the Bible with a yawn.
- The Bible’s emphasis on forgiveness and reconciliation takes on more relevance as tribalism further fractures our society.
- The Bible’s emphasis on suffering with joy and meeting needs takes on more relevance during societal upheaval such as pandemics and economic struggle.
- The Bible’s emphasis on loving our enemies and rejoicing in persecution takes on more relevance the more the church’s teachings become culturally unacceptable.
- The Bible’s emphasis on the goodness of God’s words takes on more relevance the more those words become our daily bread amid a famine of truth.
- The Bible’s emphasis on Jesus being our bread of life and light of the world takes on more relevance the more our society becomes spiritually empty and morally dark.
- The Bible’s emphasis on the value of meeting with other believers takes on more relevance the more we realize our regular need to be encouraged toward faithfulness.
We are about to discover that the Bible was never a raft to be discarded. Rather, it’s an ark that feels cumbersome and awkward in peacetime, but which is about to resume the relevance it had in the colder world in which it was written.