Have you heard this one before?
One way to understand the Bible is to remember that B.I.B.L.E. means “Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth.”
I know 99% of grown people must know that it doesn’t actually stand for that. It’s only being used as a mnemonic device to explain that thousand-page work of the Spirit from which we draw the truth of God.
But it doesn’t really make any sense. Here are five reasons why “Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth” is not a good way of explaining the Word.
I’ve never seen a set of “basic” instructions that long.
Seriously. 66 books. You know what a basic set of instructions is? The one that comes with your phone. Even a car manual is complicated.
There’s nothing “Basic” about the complex, intricate, deep entirety of scripture.
In his letter to the Hebrew Christians, Paul said, “Let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity.” While basic, elementary teachings that are easy to grasp lie at the core of the Gospel, the Bible as a whole is everything of great import surrounding the Good News. The Bible contains basic instructions, but not everything in the Bible is a simple starting point for faith.
Only a portion of the Bible is actually direct instructions for us.
The Old Testament is mostly history, much of the rest poetry and prophecy, with a small fraction containing directions, laws, or guidance, and even much of that is not directly for Christians, but for Israelites under the Old Covenant. The four gospels are biography intermixed with sermons, illustrations, and commands of Jesus. The letters that follow contain many instructions, but also other types of communication. To call the collection of works itself “instructions” is to dismiss the function of huge chunks of scripture.
The Bible is not a manual you just read before your funeral.
I wouldn’t give the Bible to someone and say “make sure you read this before you leave the planet.” Like, are aliens coming? What if I die first? What about guiding us through our whole lives as Christians? Where in the Bible does it say that its own instructions are only for the after life? Isn’t the kingdom here and now?
Exactly in what way are we “leaving earth”?
The phrase can leave open the idea that the earth is nothing more than trash and we’re getting on a plane for somewhere else. But the instructions in the Bible can not be read without applying them to the here and now, not just bags to pack and plans to make for a trip later, but plans for how to transform this world in the here and now.
“Bible” comes from a Greek word that means “books.” And these books themselves, woven into a beautiful and harmonious library, give us a number of names we can call them, including the “Scriptures” (what is written), and the “Gospel” (the good news)!
To me, “good news” always sounds better than “basic instructions.” If you gave me a choice between a positive and exciting newspaper article and a set of instructions, I’m more likely to respond to the news. This doesn’t mean that the Bible is just news without a call to obedient response, but when God speaks, we do injustice by merely calling the total compendium of his great story “basic instructions.”
The Bible contains the powerful story of the God we are to obey. But the Bible is not an instruction manual. There’s no need in a corny acronym when we have so many other choices, like Good News, to explain what the Word is to us.
An instruction manual is something people tend to read once, if at all, and if they read it more than once, it’s only when something goes wrong. I don’t want to give anyone the impression that the Word is something to be glance over once, and only return to when there’s a problem. I want to exemplify the word dwelling in me richly.
Maybe we should start calling it the GNAHWCTE:
Good News About Him Who Came To Earth.