We've all seen the advertisements that were running before May 21st with the tag live - "The Bible Guarantees It." And then, nothing unusual happened on May 21st. What are people to conclude? The Bible is not reliable. Of course, many conservative Christians have responded by saying that the Bible does guarantee many things... just not that, and they have a long list of things they would say the Bible does guarantee.
I'd agree that the Bible does guarantee a few things: God loves us. God's yearnings for us are more wonderful than we can imagine. Grace truly is amazing... but beyond that, not much. Some time back I quoted The Shadow Rock UCC Church in Phoenix who say "We know that to understand the Bible means taking it seriously but not literally." I'd go a little farther, I think, and say, "Taking the Bible seriously means not taking it literally," and I take the Bible seriously. It is a central book in my faith. There are lessons there that can be found nowhere else. I believe that God chooses to speak through that book in a unique way and it truly is inspired. I believe the Bible... but, I do not believe that it provides predictions regarding the future. I do not believe that it provides simple answers to complex questions. I do not believe that proof texts can easily be applied to the issues we face today. I do not believe it is a science book nor do I believe that it is a history book in the sense we understand history books to work today. Taking the Bible seriously requires that I understand these things before I open the pages and read stories, letters, poems, and songs that serve to shape my faith and help to give direction to my life.
So how do I respond to the folk who are distraught because the Bible seems no longer to be trustworthy? I tell them that they don't understand what it is or how it works.