In a book of historical fiction on the Civil War, the author told of the train stopping in Birmingham, Alabama, and soldiers getting aboard.
That’s when I tossed it away.
Birmingham, Alabama did not exist during the Civil War. The city was founded in 1870, five years after the end of that war, and chartered the next year.
A western novel I was reading told of some goings-on in the city of New Orleans. The author made reference to the point at which Bourbon Street intersects with the Mississippi River. This famous street runs parallel to the river and at no point intersects it.
Then, the writer described a scene taking place in a New Orleans mansion “built in the mid-nineteenth century.” Well, hello. The story was taking place in 1865, by any accounts the middle of the 19th century.
Where were the editors, one wonders? Does no one in the publishing business read a book with a critical eye any more?
I stopped reading Fannie Flagg’s new book “The Whole Town’s Talking” a third of the way in. My daughter-in-law did the same thing. The difference is I had bought the book, whereas Julie had only to return hers to the library.
It’s not that there were typos or historical inaccuracies in the book. Rather, for wont of a better way to say it, the plot got stupid. The author, a native of Birmingham whom I remember from her youth, clearly a gifted story-teller, insults her readers.
Here’s what she does….
As the generations come and go in her fictional town of Elmwood Springs, the deceased are interred at a cemetery on a rise outside the town. And they still have consciousness. They lie there in their graves, feeling blissful and chatting casually among themselves. Once a year when family members come to decorate their graves, they ooh and ahh over the babies, how big they are getting and whether this one’s eyes are the same color as grandmas, and then, they happily lie back down as though they’ll be seeing their loved ones again tomorrow.
That’s when I detrained from the Fannie Flagg tour.
That doesn’t work. Not for me, not for anyone on the planet.
Can anyone think of a more miserable existence than to be sentenced to live in a graveyard forever? The only way we could find that satisfying would be to become a moron or imbecile, with only a handful of brain cells and little of what makes us human anymore. Can you say zombies?
Why we keep reading the Bible
There are a few difficulties about the Holy Bible. There are profound passages, too deep for most of us. There are mysterious references which only a historian gets. There are prophecies that so far have eluded attempts to explain. And, there are places where writers describe the same scene differently (which, for most of us, only reinforces their genuineness).
There is the promise of hell fire, and stories of the destruction of entire civilizations because of their sin against God. These may be hard to take, but the God who created the universe has His own reasons for what He does. After all, who is there to tell Him ‘no’?
But there is so much more that keeps us coming back to the Bible.
My wife Margaret and I had led a young couple to the Lord. One day, we bumped into them in a store and had this conversation.
The wife: “My husband and I read the Bible every morning at the breakfast table.”
We: “That’s wonderful. So glad to hear this.”
The wife: “And sometimes, when we’re reading, we stop and wonder what this means. Some things in the Bible are hard to understand.”
The wife: “But I just tell him, ‘Keep reading.'”
We laughed and assured them that is precisely the right thing to do.
We do not require that the Bible be easy. Only that it be true and real.
Is it ever!
A unique book
We have no doubt that if the living God were to inspire a book of His words, His thoughts and plans and will, there would be difficulties for humans to grasp. We do not require that everything be on a first-grade level. We do not expect that people agree on everything.
The Bible understands me better than anything else I have ever read.
The Bible resonates within me as Truth and righteous.
The Bible speaks to me again and again. Many has been the time when I prayed for wisdom and suddenly the Lord called a verse of Scripture to mind which contained precisely what I needed to know, the direction I needed to take. As with most veteran disciples of Jesus, I have lots of such stories.
I’ll go so far as to say that not only does the Bible understand me, but it does so just a little too well for my comfort. That’s what stops me from reading it sometimes. It’s uncomfortable when I’m not doing right. I think it was Mark Twain who said “It’s not the Bible passages I don’t understand that bother me, but the ones I do.”
When Jesus spoke of “the Word” we take that to mean the written Word, which was the Old Testament when He walked on earth and both the Old and New in the centuries since. (This is not the place to defend or explain that, but it’s orthodox.)
“It is written, man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).
Jesus said, “You are clean through the word which I have spoken to you” (John 15:3).
Job said, “I have esteemed the words of Thy mouth more than my necessary food” (Job 23:12).