Culture At Large

Through the Bible on your lunch break

Andy Rau

Have you ever tried to read through the entire Bible, but got bogged down somewhere in Leviticus and gave up? (When I was younger, this was the usual fate of my well-intentioned "read through the Bible in a year!" New Year's resolutions.) If so, the 100-Minute Bible might be for you. This rather severely abridged Bible, designed to convey the basics of Christianity quickly enough to be read on a lunch break or subway ride to work, "picks out the principle stories of the life and ministry of its central character, Jesus Christ."

Not everybody thinks this is a very good idea. (Thanks to The Christian Mind for the links.)

I'm not quite sure what to make of this. In theory, I don't have much of a problem with an abridged Bible--we summarize, abridge, and paraphrase the Bible all the time in Bible studies and evangelistic materials. There is of course the issue that excerpting "key" passages from the Bible in this manner leaves out all sorts of important pieces of context and instruction, but so long as readers of the 100-Minute Bible are made aware that there's more to the Bible than just what they're reading, I think that's OK. In fact, it might be better than reading a book or study guide that contains a lot of non-Biblical text and just a few scattered Scripture references.

The Bible is a big and intimidating book, no doubt about it--thousands of years after it was compiled, we're still arguing about exactly what it all means. And so I understand the impulse to break it down into small, easily understandable pieces. But however effective or useful it may be in introducing people to the Bible, a truncated Bible like this points to a serious problem in our culture today--namely, we're so busy and fast-paced that we need our spiritual truths edited and compressed into bite-sized pieces that can fit nicely into the ride to and from work.

So while I appreciate what this shortened Bible is doing, and hope that it introduces the message of Christ to an audience that's too intimidated to crack open the full-blown 1000+ page Bible, part of me worries that truncating the Bible is simply pandering to our culture's intellectual shallowness, rather than challenging people to approach the Bible's claims with the time and effort (mental and spiritual) that it truly demands.

What do you think? Is this a brilliant move that will get people reading the Bible again? Or is it just a dumbing-down of the faith?

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