Commandments Concerning Bible Stories

For when it shall come to pass that thou shalt really need to pull on the heart strings of the congregation and launch upon them such a guilt trip as is usually reserved for the Faith Promise Banquet, then shalt thou hasten to dust off the Favorite Bible Story. For (psalms of imprecation notwithstanding) there are few things that doth really fill the altars and the offering plates and the church cleaning volunteer list as a Bible Story fitly spoken in due season. And the telling of it shall be thus…

Thou shall in no wise pick one of the particularly juicy stories which is full of enough bloodshed and incest and general debauchery to put even the particularly licentious episodes of A Game of Thrones to shame. For these are Baptists and have not gathered here for titillation but rather for condemnation — for they are verily gluttons for punishment. But instead thou rehearse again and again the same stories of Jonah,Daniel,Elijah, and David being sure to leave out all the best bits which shall raise all kinds of uncomfortable questions about whether the hero of the tale is really a hero at all.

For it is well known among preachers and teachers and other various other story-tellers of all shapes and sizes that carefully hidden in every Bible story is The Moral. And this Moral is a bit of homespun wisdom which the teacher must every so carefully tease out from among the story details — even when it is so subtle in the text as to be almost non-existent. And The Moral will verily show the listener that he hath in no wise measured up to the characters in the story and shall in all likelihood receive that tragic end that is meet for being so pathetic. Also thou shalt spare not to use these stories to warn against all manner of modern entertainments, technologies, and jocularities such like the people in Bible times never even dreamed of.

So that when the hero has slain the giant or tumbled down the walls or slain the hosts of Midian then shall the teacher look upon the wondering eyes of the listeners and say in a loud voice “SO WHAT’S THE MATTER WITH YOU LOSERS THAT YOU HAVEN’T DONE COOL STUFF LIKE THIS TOO?”. And then shall every heart quake with guilt and self-loathing such that nobody will begin to wonder whether all these things were put in the Bible just to make us all feel bad or if there might be some larger point about God himself and who He is. And then shall thou close in prayer

For thou must always bear in remembrance that whatsoever can be moralized can be manipulated. And whatsoever can be manipulated shall be put forth to teach law instead of grace. For too much grace is an incredibly dangerous thing.

Independent Baptist Book of Everlasting Rules and Requirements pp 7-8

89 thoughts on “Commandments Concerning Bible Stories”

      1. My job is now complete. Since I have trademarked “First”, no one can use it without legal action. If anyone violates this trademark, they can expect to hear from the respected law firm One of Six Inc. πŸ˜†

        1. Actually, your “TM” up there stands for “The Moral” as is befitting this post. πŸ˜†

        2. @Shoes is gonna be getting a strongly worded cease & desist comment any second now!


        3. Then I will countersue using my respected law firm “Dewey, Cheatem, and Howe”. That’s a three stooges bit. πŸ™ πŸ™‚ πŸ˜•

  1. Don’t forget the retelling as part of the close, especially if the story/sermon ran short. Or you thought of something you forgot. Or just want to remind the congregation that the restaurant will still be there when they get out on your schedule.

  2. And thou must eschew any technology in the telling of said Bible story that doesn’t predate the ubiqutious flannel graph that has taught 3 generations here at Guilt Baptist Church.

    1. Don’t forget to make sure that all flannelgraph men have SHORT hair; I remember my mom scrupulously trimming the pieces before using them for Sunday School.

    2. I was cleaning out my basement this week and am embarassed to say I found a whole box of flannel graph backgrounds and pieces. 😳 I con’t believe I ever used that stuff.

      1. A local preschool or daycare would love to have them. They’re called flannel boards now, and preschool teachers make beautiful, elaborate pieces to go with, say, If You Give A Mouse A Cookie or Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? It’s a great, tactile + kinesthetic + visual way for the kids to learn & review. 😎

  3. It’s been such a change for me: to stop looking at Bible stories as moral lessons but as a tale that reveals something about CHRIST. HE is the Hero.

    And you’re so right that these stories would be often used to make us feel guilty: after all, if we had faith the size of a mustard seed, we could be moving mountains. Any mountains moved lately? Then it’s YOUR fault.

    (I’ll never understand the desire of church members for this kind of weekly flagellation. Once I became an adult, I wanted a church that wasn’t so condemnatory and negative. Several years ago, we served with a wonderful pastor who reminded my husband — who was his youth pastor — that the majority of his sermons should be encouraging ones.)

    1. THIS: “It’s been such a change for me: to stop looking at Bible stories as moral lessons but as a tale that reveals something about CHRIST. HE is the Hero.”

      So true. The first thing I thought when I saw the OP pic and caption is that men were wicked sinners then and they are now. We ALL need a Savior.

    2. God Bless that pastor, PW! So true, also, your statement about Christ being the Hero! He is the central figure of all Scripture!! πŸ™‚

  4. “For too much grace is an incredibly dangerous thing” — this was exactly the attitude, usually unspoken but sometimes actually stated aloud. Love and grace to them were too permissive, too loose, too flexible, too dangerous.

    We’d sing “Amazing Grace” and “Wonderful Grace of Jesus”, but we couldn’t revel in that grace. We had to constantly be building walls and moats and borders and fences to keep ourselves within the lines lest we cross into sin and fail to please God. Where was the wonderful truth that we were already pleasing to God because we were hidden in Christ?

    1. Your last question, the answer, grace in the IFB is in word only (or available to the privileged few) , it’s not lived out. Let’s see have members of the church school or pastoral staff screwed up big time let’s act Christlike and give em a break, but if some kid messes up by wearing a wrong article of clothing or trying to spike their hair while attending the fundy school… off with their head!!

      I finally read Judges 19 today. What exactly were these people so enraged about, not that the concubine was raped and abused all night because they threw her to them. Was it that she was dead? Is that it? The text kept vacilating calling her his wife sometimes and him her husband, etc. And the phrase about “making their hearts merry” kept coming up? Sounds like partying to me. I don’t get any of it. πŸ™

    1. Some fundies I know (mostly elderly, and all laypeople) have such a clear grasp of grace that Christ truly shines through them. Other fundies I know (mostly clergy) wouldn’t know grace if they fell over it.

  5. One of the usual guilt trip messages was on Nehemiah, “Building and Battling” in which they tell you the ONLY service you can do for God HAS to be in the church, or out soul winning. It’s always about what you can do for the church. Giving money, teaching Sunday school, bus ministry, cleaning the church, nursery duty (women only of course), kitchen help (women only of course), and of course no matter what you do it’s never enough or good enough… πŸ˜₯

    1. The fundy church we left allowed married couples to serve in the nursery — my hubby and I were one such couple. We worked in the crawlers room. 😎

      1. Good for you! Since children have two parents, not just one, it’s great if a married couple works in the nursery together. I don’t think it’s a good idea for two men, or really appropriate if it’s a man and woman not related (brother and sister would probably be ok) but a married couple is perfect.

        I will never forget years ago when I asked a man who usually sat behind us at church where he’d been that night since he hadn’t been sitting behind us and he said, “My wife and I were working in the nursery.” My jaw dropped to the floor lol! :mrgreen:

        1. Our church welcomes men and teen boys helping in the nursery. However, married couples are usually split up between rooms due to the potential for legal action (spouses not testifying against one another). Not ideal, but a good CYA, nonetheless.

    2. I remember the “Building and Battling” sermon well. Ahh… the memories. One other I also clearly remember was when Jack Hyles tried to turn Daniel into a BAD guy and say it was because he went to a “Secular University” and that perhaps why he wasn’t mentioned at the fiery furnace part of the story is because he had compromised and bowed down. The whole point of THAT story was that if you go to the world for your education you will be sorry later.

      1. well, he told that story at least twice then, because I remember him telling it too…

      2. 1981, I was 16 and I thought it was one of the dumbest things I had ever heard.

      3. Badmouthing Daniel because he doesn’t fit their personal preferences? 😑 It’s the same thing Gothard does with Abigail. They twist Scripture because it doesn’t say what they want it to say.

  6. We can’t even define grace without pulling out the Pithy Acrostic (God’s Riches at Christ’s Expense-an incomplete definition if ever there was one), and so often, it seems churches would rather concentrate on the silly minutia of some of their standads than on the powerful of grace.

    Grace is a removal of guilt, a restoration, regardless of…anything, based solely on the fact that one is loved by God. One can’t let too much of that sort of thing loose and still insist that anyone who lays out of chuch on Sunday nights is a backslidden compromiser. Face it: in churches today, grace could be really bad for business.

    1. Justification is not imputing guilt. Which reminds me of another pithy saying “Just as if I never sinned” I dislike that definition, because the fact remains that I did sin. God just declared me not guilty.

      But I am thankful for the fact that by God’s grace and nothing more this happens.

      But why quibble of minutiae πŸ™‚

  7. Yesterday evening I attended a KJV only fundamentalist Baptist Church. It was like going to another planet. There was a total of 18 people in church, but all the women wore dresses that were inches below the knee. The building is relatively new, but it must have built on the cheap. I could see huge cracks in the walls where the balcony was attached to the wall. When the church gets enough money, they will tile the entryway, which couldn’t have been more than 15×15 feet. The pastor put a lot of guilt on the people, and apparently, the only thing that really counts is that one goes out soulwinning. I signed the visitor’s card, but I was out of there fast. The pastor seemed nice enough, but he railed against the Moslems who get all the breaks. I kept on wondering what mean thing a Moslem did to him. The second thing that caught my attention is that he kept on stating that once people know that they go to his church, they will be persecuted and that everything we do will be a reflection on his church. Does he really, truly believe that people care that much? There are hundreds of churches in Erie, and when people get in trouble and their names in the paper, nobody has ever mentioned religious affiliation. I’m sure that other visitors leave wondering why this guy/church have such a persecution complex.

    1. What made you want to go to that church? I thought you gave up on ifb churches. Did this site make you want to reflect on what you gave up? How did it compare to your memories of MBBC?

      1. I guess that it was a bit of introspection. I wanted to just make sure that I wasn’t filtering my memories or that I was too hard on people. I return to the Russian Orthodox Church from time to time. What I thought was wonderful back then, I don’t think is so wonderful now. I guess that I’m turning into a dyed in the wool Lutheran.

  8. BTW, Darrell, is that picture REALLY an illustration of the story of the Levite and his concubine? I’m wondering why someone, even someone from 100 years ago, would want to illustrate that particular story.

    1. IMO that story is one of the sickest and most disgusting things I’ve ever read. I hate it. The utter sexism is appalling. πŸ‘Ώ

      1. Yeah, love the chivalry, lol. But I guess chivalry is a relatively modern concept, dating from a. the 11th-12th centuries AD (and supposedly imported into Western culture from Arabic love poetry). <—Obnoxious Pedant Alert

        But sheesh, even if the guy didn't know from chivalry, he could have at least had a grain of compassion for the poor girl. That's a simple matter of basic humanity.

        Another OT story that bothers me is Elisha and the she-bears. I once mentioned to an IFB acquaintance (colleague) that this story bothered me. His response: The kids killed by the she-bears weren't little children; they were older "youths" and juvenile delinquents — "like Hell's Angels," he said. Where in the Bible does it say that? Holy eisegesis, Batman.

        1. Re: Elisha and the She-bears

          This story often bothered me as well. It made God’s prophet seem evil to wreak such a horrendous punishment on some children who were teasing him. I believe God is loving, merciful, and patient, the God Who didn’t want to destroy Ninevah, and I believe the Bible is true, so I wanted to understand what this awful story could mean.

          The story makes much more sense when we see that the word translated as “little children” in the KJV is often translated as “lads” in other versions. The Hebrew word is “naar” and was used of servants, of soldiers and of Isaac when he was 28 years old.

          Certainly it is not a comfortable story, but I do not believe it is about a grumpy prophet and a nasty God who undeservedly sends horrific punishment on some high-spirited children. That image does NOT fit the God that the rest of the Bible describes. I do believe this was a large gang of young men, a mob even, whose mockery could have turned into more had God not intervened to protect Elisha.

        2. I’ve just heard the story preached as: if you speak against “God’s Man” you better watch out, because God will get you!

        3. That type of message is an obvious manipulative power-play by the preacher: there are OBVIOUSLY times to question the “man of God” — see Nathan pointing out David’s sin or Paul publicly confronting Peter.

        4. I got a t-shirt, with the Elija story on it, at a youth workers convention. I see the story as a don’t make fun of your middle aged, balding youth leader.

        5. They weren’t just teasing Elisha. They were mocking him and Jehovah God. “Go up the way Elijah did! Ascend into heaven, if you are such a bigshot!”

          So I have been informed.

        6. Pastor’s Wife, that does make sense. Thanks!

          Once I mentioned to my pastor (diocesan Catholic priest) that this story bothered me. He jokingly replied, “It’s a great story! Shows what God does to people who mock bald guys.” (He’s bald.)

        7. I wonder how many Old Testament mothers warned their naughty children: “You better behave, or The Bears will get you!”

    2. Of course God has plenty to teach us with the Levite and his concubine story.

      1.- If your concubine leaves you, you are supposed to go after her.
      2.- If someone threatens your life, it is OK to give them your concubine instead.
      3.- It is perfectly fine to go to sleep peacefully while you can hear the mob having their way with the concubine.
      4.- The US Marines would do good recruiting only Left handers.
      5.- The Jews had superb Public Address systems where the Levite could address 400,000 men assembled to hear him.
      6.- The Jewish Rapid Response team could teach a thing or two to modern armies. Also about stealth: Nowhere is there evidence of a series of battles involving half a million combatants.
      7.- For the murder on one concubine and the sin of a few, it is perfectly fine to wipe out a whole tribe, men, women, children, and goats.

      1. The summary phrase of Judges is “every man did that which was right in his own eyes.” They weren’t willing to follow God’s ways, and so you see the perverse behavior throughout the book. Not a happy time. Bleah.

        1. I’m going to read that tonight. Thanks. I don’t remember ever hearing that story preached on. From the picture, it promises to be gruesome.

  9. For thou must always bear in remembrance that whatsoever can be moralized can be manipulated. And whatsoever can be manipulated shall be put forth to teach law instead of grace. For too much grace is an incredibly dangerous thing.

    No comment, this just needs to be repeated as oft as possible.

  10. FWIW Darrell, I think the moral (if you can call it that) is summed up in Judges 21:25. Not going to be able to flagellate much of anyone on this, I agree.

  11. I don’t think I have ever heard a sermon on Judges 19.
    I wouldn’t know what to say about it, either, except “It’s just one of those things.”

    1. I think I have — not what it teaches, naturally, but “this is what people get up to when they don’t have a pastor (or dictator or king) to tell them what to do.”

      Railed against every man doing that which was right in his own eyes, and telling the people they they are too dumb to make decisions without pastoral input.

      I’m not against getting counsel, but (1) Any godly counsel will do – if the pastor is the only godly person in your church, there’s a BIG problem, (2) The goal of counsel should be to provide the Biblical principles of making that decision, so that there is no need to return the next time.

      I get counsel when (1) I’m truly puzzled as to what course to pursue, (2) I plan to heed the counsel.

      1. I heard this story referenced in a sermon about Saul when he cut up the oxen and sent them to everyone as a call to arms. Our pastor brought up the Judges story and said that cutting up something and sending all the parts to your allies was a culturally correct way of telling everyone it’s time to come fight. I have no idea how true that was, but it made more sense than anything else I’d heard as an explanation.

        1. Doesn’t/didn’t the Mafia do that kind of thing to “send a message”? It’s all sick.

        2. Cutting up an animal was, at least according to one book I read on Biblical culture, an acceptable way of sending a message to gather. Cutting up a person (even if they were already dead) was taking that particular practice way too far, I’m reasonably sure.

  12. I must go and flagellate myself for my latest blog post about the story of Naomi and Ruth did point to God’s Greater Story and the Gospel rather than the mere facts of the account.

    I am ashamed …

  13. This post reminds me of most missionaries that my former fundamentalist church would have – they all proclaimed what a good job they were doing and how they were getting it done, and then berating the members that they weren’t doing as much as the missionary.

  14. the Levite and his concubine – and people think I’m bad for reading true crime books πŸ˜€

  15. I think I have β€” not what it teaches, naturally, but β€œthis is what people get up to when they don’t have a pastor (or dictator or king) to tell them what to do.”
    Railed against every man doing that which was right in his own eyes, and telling the people they they are too dumb to make decisions without pastoral input. —
    All I’ve been hearing from Oulette is what country we ought to be bombing this week. 2 weeks ago it was Iran, last week it was Afghanistan. I think I’ll stay fa-ar away from the pastoral input. Yikes.
    They had youth conference on Saturday, and my son came home with “new dress standards.” Not that he takes them seriously, he’s a Hollister kind of kid. I talked to him, he wants to go to church there!!! Cute girls, I have to admit.

  16. The story of Achan is in the Bible just to make the Baptists happy. Oh the sermon fodder that story provided!

    1. You got that right. I remember feeling so guilty that I was our church’s “Achan” because I was far from perfect. That God wouldn’t bless our church because of me, only me. I sure hope no one else felt that way. πŸ˜₯

      1. No way are you alone. Because I didn’t go on the Thu night church selling Jesus expeditions that they called “soul-winning”, I was frequently in deep guilt that I was hold our church back. It got to where I considered volunteering to leave…

  17. My sister and I have often remarked that we’d like to put together a storybook of all of the more disturbing or bloody stories in the Bible. You could have tame stuff like the Levite’s concubine, the she-bears, Manasseh’s eyes getting ripped out, etc., but you could also have Amnon sleeping with his half-sister, Judah sleeping with his daughter-in-law, Lot sleeping with his daughters…

    In short, the Bible is not a G-rated book. It’s not even PG-13-rated. Or R-rated. Fundies only try to claim it is because the KJV disguises a lot of things in outdated language.

    1. I should correct at least one thing in that post–that should’ve been “Amnon raping his half-sister”, not “sleeping with”…

    2. The Bible definitely doesn’t fit Victorian sensibilities or sentimentalism.

    3. I often wonder what became of some of the people in the Bible later on. Such as Tamar after Amnon raped her. The Bible says she went to dwell in her brother Absolom’s house, desolate. Yeah right. She is raped and now will never be married because she’s no longer a virgin. I guess that’s what desolate means. This kind of thing burns me up. πŸ‘Ώ

      Later on Absolom slept with 10 of David’s concubines and afterward David set them aside and never slept with them again. I get so sick and tired of the sexist double standard. πŸ‘Ώ

      1. I had to put the Old Testament down for a while because reading it from begining (I stopped in the middle of numbers) without all the skipping over and being told what to think about what I was reading, I got pretty upset at how sexist and utterly crappy women were treated. Being a woman, it’s a tuff read with the blinders off. Like, yeah, it really says that…. How bout good ol Lot offering his daughter to be thrown to the wolves so they wouldn’t mess with the angels. πŸ‘Ώ

    4. Once when I was a kid, while reading the Bible, I came across a story of two women who went to the king arguing over a baby. It reminded me of the King Solomon story, but this was a different king. The city was under siege, and the people were starving and the women had agreed to kill and eat the first woman’s child which they did, with the plan on eating the second women’s son later. The second woman hid her child however, and the first women was complaining to the king about it. I was horrified and fascinating by such a gruesome story, but I could rarely find it. Sometimes during Sunday night service, I’d flip through the OT trying to find that story again! It definitely was one I’d never heard about it church!

      1. I looked it up. It’s 2 Kings 6. Gross story that was! I can just imagine how the people were suffering. πŸ˜₯

  18. The great Emperor Jack of HAC was, as I have said before, a regular in chapel at ol’ Fundy High. He once “preached” a sermon on sexual purity after reading the passage where Jonathan ate the honey after Saul had told everyone not to eat anything. I can’t remember how he tied purity in to the story. Some ideas come to mind, but I don’t use those kind of word pictures outside the……well, never mind.

  19. Oh THANKYOU. YES. My personal least favourite ‘hero’ is Samson. So what if he he’s strong? He wanders around murdering people!
    My goodness me did reading the Bible weird me out when I was little. The story of Tamar is the epitome of too much information. Not to mention poor Dinah – I always wondered how she felt when her brothers killed the guy.
    And poor Leah! I think one of the sweetest things I ever noticed was where it talks about God giving Leah children because He saw that she was unloved. He cared about her. He saw her, and wanted to give her someone to love. How utterly sweet.
    I’m not a big fan of Jacob, either. Deceitful. A favouritist.
    And of course David. Don’t even get me started on David.
    And, frankly, Paul. I don’t think I like Paul. I’m sorry. Too many statements about women and others that don’t jibe with Jesus, in my humble opinion. I think Paul should have been forced to be married!

    1. I thought I was the only one who struggled with Paul.
      It seemed like my former Pastor was under pressure to preach about submission. The women always outnumbered the men. Heh.

    2. I always felt sorry for Dinah. The Bible clearly implies that the guy Shechem (sp) seduced her, and fell in love with her. After Jacob had agreed to let him marry her his two sons were wrong to go kill all the men in that town, and drag Dinah out of there. Notice they took of the “spoil” for themselves, including some of the women. So they got some women for themselves, but now Dinah has no one and since she was no longer a virgin, could never marry.

      I’ve often wanted to write a story about Leah, Rachel and Dinah but Liz Curtis Higgs has written a set of 3 novels about this, and she did a brilliant job. Only she has them taking place in Scotland.

      Don’t get me started on David either. While I love the Psalms and that he refused to kill Saul, and admire him for that, in all of his dealings with women he was a creep. πŸ™

      1. “…in all of his dealings with women he was a creep.”

        Amen!! Like when he decided he wanted Micah (sp?) back (for purely political reasons), so he tore her away from her new husband, who actually loved her and genuinely wanted her. The image of the poor guy following after her to get her back and being turned away…it’s heart-breaking.

        1. Oh yeah how he dealt with Michal really ticked me off. He wanted her back because he had fought the Philistines and gotten 2000 ? foreskins for her. How lovely to think that your husband killed 2000 men and than had them circumcised in order to win your hand! Then he leaves her to fight his wars, her father gives her to another man who seemed to love her, but David and his umpteen other wives by then HAS to have her back only because he’d killed and circumcised those men to get her. Instead of leaving her to be the only wife of a poor man. What a creep. Then later on because she criticized him he refused to sleep with her the rest of her life leaving her alone and frustrated. Then after that when she’s bringing up her sister’s children he takes them and has them killed to satisfy some other family’s demand, they had suffered under Saul or something like that and the retribution they wanted was 7 of Saul’s descendents, so David took the children Michal was bringing up for her sister. Rotten all around! πŸ‘Ώ

        2. David and his family paid a very high price for his evil.

          And yet……..

          David was “a man after God’s own heart.” If a man as messed up as David could be called THAT…

          If even the very best of us is THAT screwed up…

          Then maybe there is hope for ME! 😎

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