Do you treat all the Bible the same? Are all portions equally important? How do you differentiate between the critical parts and the non-critical?
In the last election, someone famously asked a political candidate whether he believed every word of the Bible? One suspects that the questioner wanted to hear an unequivocal- Yes!! Many so called Christians treat the Bible like a talisman- a magical object which conveys supernatural power to the holder or hearer. Out of that mindset, we witness meaningless questions of this sort. What does it mean to believe every word of the Bible? In the first place, does anyone claim even to understand every word of the Bible?. Am I supposed to believe the words of Satan in the Garden or when he tempted Christ? Do I believe the story told by the lying prophet in I Kings chapter 13? Can I claim to believe the words of Jesus when he said to love my enemies, when I don't? People who treat the Bible in such a trivial way as to ask such idiotic questions make a mockery of the very book they claim to reverence. Religious buffoonery of this sort is the very thing that sends many folks running for the exits whenever the fundamentalist message is on display.
How many different forms of content do we encounter in the Bible. We have historical narrative, accounts of events in human history. Within these historical events humans speak in a variety of ways, expressing personal opinions, issuing instructions, and relating their life experiences. Some of these humanly spoken words may be divinely instructive but certainly not all. We have wisdom sayings or cultural adages, conveying everyday advice (See Psalm and Proverbs). Is such everyday advice divine? We have human emotional outpourings, what we see as poetic expressions of grief, lament, anger, revenge, awe, and praise. These various elements are interspersed throughout the book of Proverbs, the Psalms and elsewhere. Are such emotional outbursts a sure source of divine knowledge? Maybe? We read highly stylized, apocalyptic language in the so called prophetic books. Such writings are poetic in nature, using symbolic expressions which do not lend themselves to any one interpretation but rather potentially convey a very personal and subjective meaning to each reader. With all of this variation in style, content, and purpose it is not realistic to treat all of the Bible with the same attention or even respect.
No, the trivial way many treat the Bible is not a sign of reverence but more nearly a mark of laziness and lack of attention.. It is so easy to spout pieties like "the Bible says it, I believe it , and that settles it"; but real respect for the Bible requires a more serious reasoned evaluation.
For sure, using the Bible as a weapon to bludgeon people into conformity to church doctrine is a sign of misuse. For all of the reasons noted above, the Bible cannot be the roadmap to required compliance. No aspect of its nature supports that conclusion. The Bible is just too multi-faceted and complex to serve the purpose of unity by conformity.