I began seminary with an intensive summer elective titled “Inspiration and Interpretation of Scripture.” The professor was a capable and trustworthy guide; I was a novice. Thrown by issues I’d never considered, I soon found myself in an acute spiritual crisis. Inwardly unravelling, I couldn’t dodge the question: is this book flopped open on my desk, the object of severe censure from some quarters—is this the Word of God or not? My life depended on how I answered, and I knew it.
This wasn’t a topic for casual debate with classmates. Real crises never are. And I didn’t have the ability to satisfy myself on each accusation threatening my confidence before making up my mind. Life can’t be put on hold and, besides, suspending judgment was but a roundabout path to the same miserable end as chucking my confidence on the spot. A decision was demanded: was I in or out?
As a detached deadhead just two years before, I had borrowed a Bible from a girl named Heather who lived downstairs. (I remembered seeing it on her shelf once.) At the time I didn’t know a single person my age who claimed to believe in Jesus. But I read a work an old hippie recommended and along the way began suspecting the author was borrowing heavily from the Bible—though I didn’t know enough about the Bible to sort it out. That haunted me. So I took up the Bible in order to become “culturally literate.”
I read a bit in Genesis but quickly found my way to John, where something happened: I was captivated by Jesus. Soon I was reading the borrowed Bible and neglecting everything else, sometimes even meals. After a couple weeks, Heather dropped by and sheepishly asked for her Bible back. I had been surprised to find her Bible well used, and I was stunned she missed it. But I understood why she wanted it back. So I handed it back to her determined to get one for myself.