The Bible is a holy book—the holy book, in point of fact. It’s the only one we’ve got, as far as holy books are concerned (I once had a pastor tell me that William Young’s The Shack should be considered a holy book, but that’s a different post). So what does that mean for our reading and reception of it?
To be holy is to be dedicated or reserved for God’s service. But it means one thing for a bowl in the temple to be dedicated for God’s service, and another for a priest in the temple to be dedicated for God’s service. They’re both dedicated, both holy—but that holiness is expressed, as it were, in different ways.
Both weddings and funerals can be holy, but that doesn’t mean they should share the same playlist.
For the Bible to be dedicated to God’s service means that it does what God intended it to do—that it is a witness to the work of reconciliation. And the Bible does this in its own unique and infallible way.
Here’s my point. I think that Bible-believing Evangelicals who have a high respect for God’s Word can sometimes treat it as though everything it says is serious, normal, and unsurprising. It’s the kind of seriousness with which we treat sacred things. But if you show up to a wedding and think that because this covenant is a sacred thing, you must not laugh or cheer or whoop when the newly-married couple kisses at the end, you misunderstand sacred things.
The Bible is holy. It has been dedicated for God’s service, and that service is telling you and me about God’s work of salvation in Christ. In order to do that, to diagnose and expose our sin and show us how we may be saved, the Bible says some surprising, counterintuitive, strange things. Therefore, certain qualities must be cultivated in order to revere the Bible as holy, that is, to understand it as ordained by God for the purpose of understanding its message. Humor, surprise, and the ability to recognize irony are some which come to mind.
Treating the Bible as holy means laughing when Jesus does the bit about the Pharisees and the camel, weeping when Isaac asks his father where the sacrifice has got to, gasping in surprise when Samuel actually shows up to talk to Saul, and so on and so on. the Bible is a weird, funny, surprising, unexpected book. If we can’t recognize some of these little non sequiturs, how can we feel and communicate full force of what the Bible is meant to communicate? The uncreated and undying Son of God was born, lived, and died to make his enemy his bride. To see that, to understand it, and to feel the impact of it—that’s what it means to revere the Bible as holy.