On Lack of Christian Consensus

I was reading an excerpt of Tony and Bart Campolo’s book Why I Left, Why I Stayed over at Hemant Mehta’s Friendly Atheist blog. The book focuses on Bart’s well known apostasy to Humanism and his father remaining a Christian.

There is a lot that could be addressed from the excerpt, but one thing that stood out to me was this comment:

Despite the divine guidance of the Holy Spirit and more than two thousand years to work out the kinks, every Christian church and individual believer sees Jesus differently than all the rest, and each one of them is convinced that, thanks be to God, their vision is the fairest of them all.

This is a common critique of Christianity, and it shows up often in the comment section of sites like the Friendly Atheist. This criticism has always rung hollow to me because it presupposes that the Bible is not truly the word of God. If the Bible is not the word of God, its meaning is not complex, it lacks depth, and has no real bearing or understanding of reality. So of course it is absurd that Christians have failed to come to a consensus on all of its contradictory elements over the past 2,000 years.

But, if one holds that the Bible is the word of a transcendent God breaking into the cosmos which he himself created, then plumbing the depths of scripture would inevitably bring up myriad and variegated results. We see this with science: science is a methodology that is constantly studying the universe and refining and correcting humanity’s understanding of it. If the Bible is the word of God, the same should be true of our understanding of scripture.

To suggest that a variety of responses to the complexities of the Bible reveals its inadequacies, contradictions, and falsehood is to already assume that is not God’s word.