To have real meaning and significance the Bible has to be treated differently from the way the church has dealt with it historically. In general the church wants to handle the sacred text as if it is partly historical narrative and partly a coded but essential message. The first part forms the basis for teaching our children about God and the latter is instruction for the adults and offers employment to the clergy. On the one hand, many in the church want to ascribe a “literal” understanding to the Bible, which addresses the parts considered to be clearly historical. Then on the other hand, the very existence of preachers and theologians employed to explain the mysterious parts is clear evidence that the literal approach to scripture is not workable. If literal is taken to mean the understanding in accordance with common usage, as so often stated, why do we need interpreters?
Yes, the Bible is mysterious, profound, and challenging. The church has actually added to the mystery more than it has deciphered that mysteriousness. By largely interpreting the Book as instructions in how to please God and escape eternal punishment, the church has opened up many more questions that it has answered. Chief among those would be why God chose to teach vital truth in a 2000 page book which requires unraveling in order to know that Truth. Just assuming that this is God’s way of culling mankind to identify the few to be saved doesn’t really explain anything; it simply an assertion which avoids explaining why God chooses to save but a few and those few being only those lucky enough to have an opportunity to know the Truth.
The only mystery that the church wants to deal with is the mystery of Bible prognostication (prophecy). That is very convenient because such predictions can be interpreted sensationally over and over again, playing on a human fixation with drama, and the proof of that interpretation is postponed for a sufficient period to provide the interpreter with ample cover when the interpretation fails. This is the bread and butter of numerous television and radio religious broadcasts.
On the other hand when preachers are asked to answer other mysteries raised by their teaching, they employ two responses. One is that the question is not allowed because it is heretical, challenging a longstanding essential tenet of the church. This is silencing by calumny. The other response simply states that the Bible does not address this question, and they refuse to speculate. This is silencing by resignation. Thus the church is freed from all responsibility to make sense of what they teach. Who said there is no free lunch?
If the Bible is to have real significance in our lives it must do so by stimulating our thinking and expanding our understanding through meditation, contemplation, evaluation, and open discussion. That approach to the Bible cannot avoid any questions by pontificating about Orthodoxy and heresy. It cannot be limited by dismissively assigning derogatory names to questioners. A real interest in plumbing the depth of meaning in the Bible literally requires taking the Bible back from the church where it has languished too long and submitting it to the intense scrutiny, which those with real respect for its transforming potential must seek.