The Ford Thunderbird once stood as an American icon in the automobile world. The rapid increase in popularity led to the formation of multiple regional clubs in which enthusiasts could share their love of this fabulous car. But as with many things in life, Ford could not leave well enough alone, and subjected the Thunderbird to upgrades and improvements. As Paauw (2016) notes, “No doubt a case could be made for each added feature and design. But when you added them all up, something else happened. All the enthusiasts rebelled. They claimed they didn’t recognize their beloved anymore” (p. 35).
Such is the case with Genesis 3:3. Eve makes the proclamation to the serpent that God instructed that they “must not touch” (New International Version) the tree of knowledge of good and evil. We see in Genesis 2:17, however, that God simply said, “you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (New International Version). Nary a word was spoken about touching, but Eve felt a compulsion to add to God’s instructions.
Eve took a simple instruction and complicated it. And as Glenn Paauw indicates in Saving The Bible From Ourselves, we do the same thing with the Bible today. We have removed verses from context and have itemized scriptures into daily affirmations of self-help. Like some Stuart Smalley grocery list, we pick and choose only the healthy items on the list, or only the items that go with the meal we are preparing that evening. We often turn scriptures into some utilitarian thing to be used for our own personal benefit, seemingly making things better. What we are actually doing, however, is needlessly complicating and attempting to update things that don’t need to be updated.
Ford had Thunderbird problems. Eve had Thunderbird problems. And so do we.
Paauw goes on to write that, “in an important, clarifying move, Ford went back to the start and released a new retro version of the Thunderbird, thus winning back the tribe” (p. 35). Perhaps that is what we as modern Christians in 2017 need to do.
Make things simple.
The more we try to make our Bible applicable and user friendly, the more it loses its unique identity and appeal. We have to understand the Bible in historical and contextual ways and go back to the base model. In a world in which instant certainty is a must, the base model of the Bible is anything but. Paauw writes, “The bare text makes the modernist nervous, so he won’t leave the text alone. The bare text has too many possibilities – mysteries, even. The bare text is difficult to control” (p. 35, 37).