If Christians can agree on one thing, it’s that we agree to disagree. A lot.
The next time you’re driving around town, count how many different kinds of churches there are in your community. I could start listing them, but there’s not enough memory in ChalicePress.com to hold them all. Each of those different strands of Christianity, those denominations, represents a group of people who chose to break away from old traditions and beliefs and start a new faith tradition. Many of those decisions have, at their roots, disagreements about how to interpret scripture.
For a book that’s been around for two thousand years and the subject of seemingly infinite analyses, the Bible is still a confounding document. Despite the dozens of interpretations available, we still disagree over some of the most basic messages in scripture. How many Thanksgiving dinners have ended prematurely over an argument rooted in scripture? Many people will be choosing their candidate in the 2020 election in part because of whether a candidate’s interpretation of the Bible’s moral messages align with their own. So much disagreement in American culture originates in these different interpretations of the same document.
A decade ago, Chalice Press issued the Banned Questions series, which examined more than 100 of the issues that generate controversy, confusion, and conversation. Edited by Progressive Christian author Christian Piatt, the series compiled responses from dozens of authors on a variety of topics about Jesus, the Bible, and Christians in general.
Since the Banned Questions series was released, the audience looking for Biblical interpretation that’s not wearing blinders has grown. We recognized a condensed version of the Banned Questions series would be an excellent way to introduce this audience to a new reading of scripture, one that welcomes us all, one that teaches and forgives and recognizes the God-given diversity in Christianity and in our world.
That greatest-hits book, You Can’t Ask That!: 50 Taboo Questions about the Bible, Jesus, and Christianity, reflects that diversity in its very structure. It doesn’t offer a single answer on any question. Instead, it offers multiple opinions on those questions and leaves it up to the reader to decide where they stand – or grants them the intellectual permission to craft their own answer.
You Can’t Ask That! doesn’t flinch. The very first question asks, “Can I be a Christian if I don’t believe the Bible is perfect, handed down directly from God to humanity without error?” Odds are, if your answer is “no, you can’t,” you’re throwing the book across the room and running to scrub your fingertips for 20 seconds. If your answer is “yes, of course,” congratulations – You Can’t Ask That! was written for people just like you. You Can’t Ask That! allows you to ask those questions you’ve feared asking in the safety of a book. Ask those questions fearlessly!
Whether you’re on the annual reading the Bible you started with your grandmother when you were young or you’re a confirmand getting used to that new-Bible smell, You Can’t Ask That! is guaranteed to give you a new perspective on an issue that you’ve considered settled long ago. It doesn’t force you to change your mind, but it encourages you to consider changing your mind. The idea of changing your opinion on a matter of faith may ratchet up your anxiety a couple of notches, but if you believe God is still at work in this world and in each of us, being open to change is vital for that work to occur.
Making the effort to see faith through another’s eyes truly matters in divisive times like this. You probably won’t agree with every concept in You Can’t Ask That!, and that’s more than OK – that’s really the point of the book.