Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The B-I-B-L-E ... yes, that's the book...

In addition to the thoughts stirred up by The Year of Living Biblically, a few other things have been bubbling around based on comments I've heard and or things I've seen lately.

One was Doug Pagitt's practice at Solomon's Porch of making sure that Bible verses are read in context -- no proof-texting allowed. It's sort of like a variation on the old Lay's Potato Chip ad -- you can't read just one. Doug reads an entire section, or chapter, or book(!) to place the thoughts in proper context. Now that would cut out some of my best sermons, which are based on snippets like "Be still and know that I am God." I think A.J. Jacobs did some that same sort of selective scripture obeying when he tried to follow all the biblical laws. Yes, he often looked at the context of the surrounding scripture, but there were times verses were popped out of context and he put them into practice.

Another thing was the idea that, besides a textual context, there's a historical context as well. I know people who read 1 Corinthians 14:34 -- "As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silence in the churches." -- as a biblical mandate for our time. It's a commandment of scripture. But later in that same book Paul tells us, "Greet one another with a holy kiss" and they don't believe that is a biblical mandate for our time. "It's from their culture," they say. I supposed we're not supposed to expect an email from "Aq'uila and Prisca, together with the church in their house, send[ing] you hearty greetings in the Lord," either. Or are we? How do we know the context and what is for that time and what is for all time? I guess it all depends on our lens.

Then I got to thinking about who decided what was in the Bible and what was out. Marcion, in the first century, had a fairly limited list -- the Gospels and a few of Paul's epistles. By Athanasius time (4th century), most of the books we have now were in -- except for churches in Asia minor that deleted Revelation. Martin Luther wanted to drop James. And the Old Testament varies depending on whether you include the Apocryphal books or not. Very confusing.

Finally, I watched "Mr. Deity and the Book."

What would Jesus do?! I think Carrie Newcomer's right when she sings "God speaks in rhyme and paradox, this I know is true."

What I also know is true is that Scripture has been a source of solace, inspiration, confrontation, and challenge for me. That's a good thing -- and it solves the problem for me of having to (or getting to, when I feel especially self-righteous and confuse that for true righteousness) speak as God's representative to the sinners in the world and quoting Scripture to get them to shape up. Those who say, "The Bible says it, I believe, that settles it" may find it isn't quite settled yet.

-- Brent

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Interesting Post Brent....appreciated the historical input about Marcion, The Churches in Asia Minor, and Luther....

I guess one statement that I really like espoused by many evangelicals is that "the book" has everything necessary in it for (to learn about?....can't remember the exact wording) salvation and growing in a life of faith.

One of the best articulations on the matter I've personally read was John Stott's thoughts in "Evangelical Truth".....I think he quoted other guys like Packer, etc. as well.....

but what I appreciated was his handling of the tensions between the fundys, evangelicals, and other branches of the Church.