Since the inception of Islam, Muslims have firmly held that the Koran (i.e. their holy book) is a beautiful work, and when coupled with other elements of their faith, it should compel you to believe.
In other words, this much revered book of the Muslims is not just holy in that it shows you how to live, but it has the power to convert because it is a phenomenal piece of literature.
And yet, Jews and Christians have never—even when actively and loudly trying to evangelize different cultures and peoples—used similar arguments for the Holy Bible.
Why is that?
After all, millions of Jews and Christians —past, present, and certainly in the future—will tell you without hesitation that the Bible is beautiful. Not only that, but these same Jews and Christians would laud the book for not just being a piece of literature worthy of any educated reader’s attention, but would assert that it is in fact a library, spanning various genres and millennia.
So the question remains, why are we—especially those of us most engaged in evangelization—not using this as a compelling argument for becoming a follower of Christ?
Why can I not say in the public sphere, "Look here at how beautiful, how sonorous, how clever the books of the Old and New Testament are. See it and believe!" ?
Quite simply, it is because Judaism and Christianity see the Bible as a privileged place of encounter with God more so than an object of reverence. Yes, the literature in the Bible is phenomenal, which is why I have spent my entire adult life studying it, but more importantly, within its pages we can meet God.
Consider how the Jews express this same truth.
For our older brothers in the faith, the Bible chronicles sacred events, moments in time that both have happened and continue to occur. In other words, they see the past in the present tense, so that the reading of Sinai, becomes a living word for our ears as well. Reading the Bible with this framework in mind, the voice from the burning bush demands that we too remove our sandals; the call to head to Nineveh becomes one that we too must heed, and so on.
Catholics also live out this understanding of the Bible, often without even realizing it.
At the last supper, Jesus asks us to “do this in remembrance of me,” a command to remember by and through our actions. So every day, “from the rising of the sun unto its setting,” an offering is made of bread and wine, but more importantly, an encounter takes place. The millennia old event that took place in Jerusalem is made present to me, and through that event, a person is too.
You see, we don’t look through our Holy Scriptures as we look through a scrapbook; mainly, to be reminded of better times. Nor do we peruse its pages to marvel at its construction, syntactic or otherwise, as if the human hand had no part in its formulation. We go to the Bible because it is there that we can meet God.
This is why when I am evangelizing, you will not hear me point to the beauty of the book as a reason for belief or even a proof that should sway you in a theistic direction. Yes, beautiful things flow from the spring of this beautiful God, but Evangelists will speak of the Bible (and try to get you to read it too) because it is there—no matter the translation, or style, or even intent of the original sacred author—that you will meet Jesus.
You can encounter God and that is worth proclaiming.