Broken Bible, Fragile Faith
Trey plucked bite-sized sandwiches from the snack platter that his wife, Timber was preparing as he walked around the kitchen, his face buried in his little New Testament.
“You’re humming….” Timber said, annoyed.
“You’re nagging…” Trey responded, in kind, through full mouth.
She finished washing her hands and started chopping celery.
“Oh, this is interesting,” Trey stopped moving and swallowed. “Jesus says to Peter, ‘And I will give you the the keys of the kingdom of Heaven. Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”
“That’s a lot of power to give one person,” Timber said, with a twinge of bitterness in her voice.
“Yeah, totally,” Trey mumbled through the crumbs of a new bite of sandwich.
“Hey don’t bring up all this doubt stuff with my dad, ok?” Timber shot him a stern glare and then turned to rinse her knife. “He still doesn’t even know about me, I don’t think.”
“Yeah, I know.” He thought for a moment. “It’s ironic though, that people like him are the reason I’m about to throw it all away too.”
“Are you seriously gonna wear that?” She put her hand on her hip and looked at his cargo shorts.”
“What?! You expect me to stay in my starchy church clothes in my own house?”
“They will all be wearing theirs still.”
“Even your sister?”
“I don’t know if you can call what she wears to church ‘church clothes,’ but yes.”
“I guess as long as she still goes to your dad’s church he’s ok with it.”
“Yeah,” Timber said quietly as she turned toward the sink.
Trey looked up at her from the faux-leather bound pocket Testament and was silent for a moment. Then he said, “Alright, I’ll change out of them.” He squashed the book pages-down on the counter and unfastened his belt.
Timber shot a look at the wood floor where she heard the keys in his pocket plop. Her eyes got big as she squawked, “What are you doing?!”
He feigned an innocent, surprised look. “What!?”
She turned back to the counter to hide her smile, the bright red roosters on his boxers still in her mind, and scrubbed a place she had just scrubbed.
Trey pulled his shorts up and leaned against the counter, watching her. He crossed his legs and his arms as his smile faded. “I almost wish someone would say something to people like your dad.”
“What would you say to him?”
“Just like, ‘you gotta be careful telling people the word of God is flawless, and like perfectly perfect and stuff.”
“That’s what he’s based his whole life on.”
“I know, but when someone finds a single error, like these apparent contradictions in the gospels, they lose all trust in the Pastors who taught them everything they know about God. And then they’re bound to just throw it all away like I feel like I’m about to do. And if there IS anything good left in the whole religion, we’re bound to throw the baby out with the bath water.”
Timber scrubbed circles around one of the burners on the stove, as if stuck in a holding pattern, “Do you think there is a baby in the bath water still?”
“I sure want there to be, Hunny. I really do. Now my life is based around this faith too.”
“It’s kinda scary, huh?” Timber didn’t turn to him.
“You were really scared, weren’t you?”
She nodded. “Plus I was trying to plan the whole wedding at the same time. And then you found your faith just as I was losing mine. I almost didn’t marry you because I was so scared and confused.”
“Baby, I still don’t understand why you let one person destroy your faith.”
“My mom’s the most devout person I know. If that’s what being a Christian turns a person into I don’t want anything to do with it. Besides, isn’t that what you’re about to do? Throw out your faith because of one person? Just because Pastor Rod told you the Bible’s perfect?”
“I’m doing it because everyone in the history of The Church lied to me, at least since that council at Carthage canonized it and claimed the scripture was perfect. I think they decided they had to claim it was inerrant because they were afraid people would take liberties and spin off too far and they would lose control of all their people. Now, if God wrote in the sky something like, ’66 BOOKS, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION’ then maybe I wouldn’t be so skeptical. But really who gave those guys the power to choose?”
“Well,” Timber leaned against the counter and said quietly, “Just because sometimes it appears they were wrong about it being 100% historically accurate, or translated perfectly, doesn’t mean it’s all false, right? Do you believe in Jesus still?”
“Yeah. I think so. I mean, he’s the only guy in history to really claim he was God, and was able to back it up.”
“Ok, then who would you believe to tell the message Jesus would have wanted to tell?”
“Maybe, um. . . like his disciples? The fellas that were with him the most?”
“Ok, which ones?”
Trey looked up at the ceiling fan and sighed. “Well, I guess maybe,” He thought, “Peter, I guess. If I were to swear I’ll never deny Jesus, then I did three times, and I wanna kill myself, but instead Jesus forgives me and even gives me the keys of the kingdom anyway. . . man, if that dude doesn’t have a motivation to be sold out for Jesus, I don’t know who would be. That’s a stupid crazy new chance at life, kid.”
“I guess Peter didn’t directly write one of the four gospels, did he? But Mark was supposed to be one of Peter’s closest disciples. That’s pretty close.” Timber reasoned.
“Ok, I can sorta buy it. And I think Matthew and John who wrote two of the gospels actually were his disciples.”
“So do you believe the books written by them are what Jesus wanted the world to know?”
“I don’t know if I trust these dudes to have gotten it exactly, historically correct, but yeah, if Jesus was trying to pass some message on to the world I think these guys would have gotten as close to it as anybody has.”
“So that’s three of the four gospels that you can believe in,” Timber said. “And I think Luke was a doctor who hung out with Paul.”
“Hmm, but how can we trust Paul? He never even knew Jesus directly.” Trey started chewing on his mustache and furrowed his brow. “And what about the whole Old Testament?!”
“Well,” Timber said, “The Old Testament was Jesus’ Bible, and he said he was the fulfillment of it, or whatever. So he pretty much endorsed the whole Old Testament as true.”
“So. . .” Trey reasoned, “I guess I can trust the whole Old Testament and Matthew, Mark, and John. John wrote Revelation. Peter wrote 1 &2 Peter. And much of the rest depends on if we can trust Paul- all his letters to the Corinthians and Ephesians and stuff.” Trey scowled at a distasteful thought. “I’ve always thought Paul’s logic seemed a little absurd. I mean I’d like to believe that we’re all totally and absolutely saved if we just have faith but I’ve always felt like Paul kinda went off the deep end in that direction. That type of forgiveness just seems absurd.”
“Hmm,” Timber looked at her painted red toe nails as she curled them over and over into her fresh, new, orange flip flops. She curled her lips into her mouth and bit down on them for a minute, as if holding something in. Finally she shook her head almost imperceptibly and continued, a little quieter,”Ok, so what did Jesus say about Peter again?”
Trey looked at her with an incredulous, wry smile. “You really need me to read it again, Miss Harvard Law? You’re leading the witness here.”
She looked up at him impatiently with a smirk growing.
“Ok, kid.” He lifted the smashed Bible from the counter, like picking a bicycle-crashed child off the ground. “Matthew 16. . . I’ll start up a little higher: Jesus says, ‘And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”
“Ok, now doesn’t it say somewhere that Paul ran his theology past Peter and got the go ahead from him?”
“I don’t know!” Trey held his palms up as if it would be absurd for him to know such a specific detail.
“Try Galations, like 2 maybe.”
Trey stared at her for a moment. “You’re ridiculous.” He shook his head and started flipping toward Galations. “I thought you were the Atheist here.” He scrubbed the last few pages over with his fingers, read silently for a moment and then read aloud, “I went up again to Jerusalem… so this is Paul writing this, I guess. . . ‘I went in response to a revelation and set before them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles’. . .” His eyes scanned to the next column, “. . . ‘James, Peter, and John, those reputed to be pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, when they recognized the grace given to me, and agreed we should go to the gentiles, and they to the Jews. All they asked is that we should continue to remember the poor.”
“So,” Timber said. “Since Peter was given authority to bind things on earth that would be bound in heaven–” Timber started.
“–Yeah, yeah, I got it,” Trey butted in. “Since Peter was given power to make decisions on earth that were binding in Jesus’ kingdom, and Peter gives Paul his blessing to preach to the Gentiles, which is us. . . then I guess we should believe what he says.”
“And what was the church that Peter started?”
“You’re leading me like a puppy on a leash. But I’ll go with it, because you’re kinda cute. . .” He didn’t give her the luxury of a smile, “So, I guess, Peter’s church was . . . eventually the catholic church, right?”
Timber nodded and started to turn around to wipe parts of the counter again, “And who canonized the books in the Bible?”
“Okay, Okay. I get it. Jesus gave Peter authority to start the damn church– the DANG church– and he passed the authority on down to the people which gave them the right to canonize the Bible, and here we are, with this book that is potentially flawed, but Jesus gave these people the power to bind stuff on earth. So I guess the Bible is binding.” Trey threw his hands in the air.
“But even if it’s not binding,” Timber said. “Who’s the most likely to have the words of Jesus?”
“I don’t know. Who?” Trey rolled his eyes, as if he were the obligatory gear in a machine of her making.
“The ones who were closest to him. All these guys who deserted him and betrayed him, but because of the stuff he said and did for them, they became so devoted to him that they almost all ended up being martyrs for him.”
“Wow.” Trey shook his head. “THAT’s ridiculous.”
A knock at the door echoed through the house.
She ignored it. She threw the rag at him and crossed her arms. “What I’m saying is that these guys might not be historians, but if anyone is gonna tell the story that Jesus was trying to get across, it would be these guys. Same as the Old Testament, right? It was told by people who we assume were closest to God. If you can believe in anything–”
“–this is about the best we got. And we might as well bet the farm on it.” He finished her thought.
A glistening drop of water gathered in the corner of her eye. She looked away.
“What’s wrong, Babe? You just single handedly proved to the world that we can trust the Bible! AND showed the miraculous power of this man’s crazy absurd forgiveness rolling down the centuries to us!”
She just shook her head and swallowed the lump in her throat.
“Oh, that’s it, isn’t it. I’m sorry.” He watched her for a moment in silence. “I know. I’m scared too.” He stepped to her and wrapped his arms around her. He rocked her for a moment and said, “At least I have you.”
She nodded and pressed her face into his shirt to absorb her tears. “I really want to believe.”
The knock came from the door again, louder this time.