Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The WORD of God

Sometimes God reveal things to us in some amazing ways that changes everything...I have had such an experience in the past 2 days...I wanted to blog about it yesterday but I wasn't sure how to write about it...and frankly, I still have no clue exactly how to word my new thoughts. Since I haven't let that small obstacle restrain me in the past, I will give it a go anyway.

My traditional understanding of the Bible, scripture, the Holy Text or whatever else it can be called is that it is sort of an owner's manual for the follower of Jesus. If the words were dissected, analyzed and otherwise parsed, truth could be revealed. If enough time was spent with scripture and if enough time was spent with someone formally educated in the text for them to explain it to you, your spiritual life would prosper. Largely I saw "church" time each week as a time that people got together to sing songs, pray and be educated by the preacher explaining how some verses fit together, the "real" meaning of a particularly difficult to understand text or whatever.

At some point over the past few years I began to see the Bible less as an owner's manual and more as a love letter...some divine Hallmark Card to reveal the heart of God to people. The part about God ordering the death of someone, or directly causing the death of someone like Uzzah was a bit troubling but for the most part I began to think that God's heart, and unifying presence could be found through a good understanding of scripture. I mean, doesn't it make sense that properly understanding the cultural and spiritual implications of the Word of God lead to knowing God better? In some ways my desire to memorize scripture to somehow come to a better spiritual life through the text as mentioned above gave way to teaching others how to "properly" analyze and interpret the text...in so far as I understood it to be...in order to enrich their spiritual lives through a good understanding and knowledge of scripture.

And now that has given way to a new thought...indeed, a revolutionary thought to me. And like a revolution so often does, I have started to feel and experience great freedom because of this new revelation. In fairness, I have to give out props to Peter Rollins as his latest book has helped facilitate some of my new thoughts.

So check this out...Does the power of God's Word rest in the words? I don't think so. Does the power of God's word rest in the mental and academic exercises we undertake to stretch our faith and perhaps, even prove our devotion to God by reading, memorizing and dissecting the words? I don't think so. I think the power of God's Word exists because it has the power to transform lives. If the Bible is just about understanding a text it is no better than other great literary works. Why study Pauline Epistles when you can get some great lessons for life from Twain? Why try to change your life because of words and sentences spoken by Jesus? Tony Robbins, Zig Ziglar and Dave Ramsey have made fortunes by helping millions correct their negative behavior. So if it isn't about behavioral modification and if it isn't about reading cool literary works...we are kind of left with transformation as the power and legitimacy of scripture, no?

If true, this thought changes almost everything...think about it...
***When a teacher in Bible Class or a preacher/pastor stands up in church to explain a passage to people does it not remove the very teeth of the text if he/she try to explain the scriptures to you in a prefabricated and overly analyzed way?
***Does it not shift the responsibility of reading and surrendering to the text from the "clergy" to the individual?
***Should Bible studies not be less about trying to figure out some cryptic code, hermeneutic or exegesis as a group and more about being transformed by the text?
***Should we not be open to new interpretations of the text...considering that the text is dynamic and that through a very much less-than-static Word, God may reveal new ways to understand and new ways to be changed to be deeper in relationship with him?
*** Does the idea of doctrines and specific, often divisive, theology not seem useless and worthless in reaction to the revelation?

I will write more about this in the coming days...probably critiquing my own thoughts and answering some rebuttals that will surely follow. My wife has already provided the first one...
If teaching scripture isn't needed, why is teaching listed as a gift? Good thought Brook! You always make me think...I love that about you.

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