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The Gandalf Study Bible?

Have you ever noticed that we live in the land of the “Monday Morning Quarterback”?

It seems that along with American citizenship comes not only the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, but also the certification to second guess the experts.

In fact, most of us tend to believe that we are measurably smarter than our elected officials, the coach who calls the plays, or the pastor who stands behind a pulpit.

And when it comes to providing a “post game show” style, after-the-fact evaluation of a government policy, a decision to go for it on fourth and two, or whether that message on Sunday was really “right on”, most of us are more than happy to offer an opinion or two.

And that’s not a bad thing.

Kicking around the issues of the day can sharpen our minds and clarify our convictions.

But what happens when that innate sense of being an expert gets a bit out of control?

What happens when we are so convinced that our opinion is the only one that matters, that we feel its our duty to not only silence debate, but censor any information that might differ with our world view?

We come up with what we could call “The Gandalf Study Bible”.

Ian McKellen returns as ‘Gandalf the White’ in The Lord of the Rings.
When openly gay actor Sir Ian McKellen (Gandalf in Lord of the Rings, among other memorable roles) stays in a hotel with a Bible in the nightstand drawer, he rips out pages that contain a certain passage from Leviticus, according to a new interview with the actor by Details magazine.

(The passage says: “Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable,” as translated by the New International Version; the King James Version uses the word “abominable.”)

McKellen, about to turn 70, came out late in life at age 49, according to the magazine.

Here’s part of the interview:

Details: Is it true that when you stay at hotels you tear out the Bible page that condemns homosexuality?

Ian McKellen: I do, absolutely. I’m not proudly defacing the book, but it’s a choice between removing that page and throwing away the whole Bible. And I’m not really the first: I got delivered a package of 40 of those pages — Leviticus 18:22 — that had been torn out by a married couple I know. They put them on a bit of string so that I could hang it up in the bathroom.

This “enlightened” form of vandalism raises a couple of questions.

First, the right to free expression that McKellen takes for granted has its roots in a decidedly Judeo-Christian world view.

In fact, McKellen might find a very different set of consequences for the open practice of his sexual preference if he was a citizen of Iran, rather than the United Kingdom.

Second, would McKellen be equally comfortable if the same spirit of intolerance and vigilante censorship that he applies to an organization like the Gideons who place Bibles in hotel rooms, was applied to his films or personal possessions?

It is one thing to say, “I disagree with what the Bible teaches concerning homosexual practice. Let’s discuss the issue openly, honestly and with respect for differing views.”

It is quite another to take the additional step of exalting yourself to the role of editor of Holy Writ – “I don’t like Leviticus 18, so I’ll not only rip it out, but encourage others to do so as well.”

Unfortunately, McKellen is not alone in his rather crude attempt at selective theology.

I encounter more and more professing Christians who have a cafeteria style view of spirituality.

The parts of the Bible that speak of God’s love? Sign me up!

The parts that speak of God’s justice? Ehh, maybe not.

The parts of the Bible that talk about heaven? Groovy!

The parts that speak about Hell? Where’s my X-acto knife?

The bottom line? Each of us either consciously or unconsciously makes a crucial decision when confronted with the Bible.

Will we accept it as it claims to be – the very inspired Word of God, and place ourselves under its authority?

Or will we see it as something less, and place it under our authority?

Personally, it makes sense to me to have the same view of the Bible as Jesus did.

“Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.  For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:17-19)

Critics and those who have taken it upon themselves to even attempt to destroy the message of the Bible have come and gone.

The French skeptic Voltaire once proclaimed:

“One hundred years from my day there will not be a Bible in the earth except one that is looked upon by an antiquarian curiosity seeker.”

Interestingly, he said this some two hundred years ago.

And ironically, after his death, the printing press Voltaire used to publish his writing was purchased and used by a Bible publishing society.

Voltaire has vanished, but the Bible remains.

Gandalf and his page ripping associates will go the same way.

But the Word of God stands forever.

As Martin Luther once put it:

Mighty potentates have raged against this book, and sought to destroy and uproot it—Alexander the Great and princes of Egypt and Babylon, the monarchs of Persia, of Greece and of Rome, the Emperors Julius and Augustus—but they prevailed nothing.

They are gone while the book remains, and it will remain forever and ever, perfect and entire as it was declared at first. Who has thus helped it—who has protected it against such mighty forces? No one, surely, but God Himself, who is master of all things.

“ All flesh is as grass,

And all the glory of man as the flower of the grass.

The grass withers,And its flower falls away,

But the word of the LORD endures forever.” (I Peter 1:24-25)


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