In this final part of the series Dean and Justin discuss how adding different dimensions to our reading and understanding of truth can make it come alive, turning truth into beauty and a living encounter with the Person of Truth
Check out part 2 of this interesting discussion about how we can breath life and beauty back into our bible reading. As always we would love to hear your comments and feel free to subscribe here on my blog or on iTunes. Enjoy!
In this podcast Dean and I look at the Bible. We all know that we should be reading the Bible, but many of us don’t and feel guilty about it. SO we look at how you can “spice” it up, why we struggle to connect to the Bible and how we can change some of these perspectives. Please comment below, we want this to be more than just a conversation between two guys.
So do you ever feel like you can never make God happy. Sure we are told that you do make God happy and that he loves you, and we know this is the “right” answer but is that how we really feel deep down inside? Not for me it wasn’t.
I work in a christian business and we have a devotional time every morning. Almost every devotional falls into the following structure: 1) There is something you are not doing that you should be doing, 2) Today we are going to re-commit ourselves to working on this area and doing better at it. 3) Tomorrow we will repeat the cycle again with another aspect you are failing at.
I don’t know about you but I find that super de-motivating. Not only that but I see it causing so much destruction in people’s lives. What happens is some people believe this and blame themselves for their failure (because it couldn’t be God, he is good all the time, and all the time he is good). This makes truly believing that God is happy with you impossible no matter what you “say” you believe.
The other type of person gives up and best case scenario believes in a kind of “grace” where they can do anything they want and God is always happy with them (despite what they say this always feels hollow and unreal and so many drift away from God), or they simply walk away.
However I have found another way, it isn’t a way where you can just add something to your current belief system. It has been a radical giving up of all I’ve know and believed about myself, God and the bible and in true Abrahamic fashion leaving what is known behind to follow Jesus into the unknown. ( I am saying this not to invalidate anyone’s current experience, but rather to share that moment that for me transformed everything.)
One of the things I have had to work the hardest at is changing the way I read my bible. I used to read it to find answers, to learn timeless principles that could be applied to life. However now I read the bible to allow the Word of God to read me. I read it to find Jesus and in doing so the Father. I am learning to read it like art, allowing it to speak to me of the many colours of Christ.
By reading this way I have found a God who doesn’t let me just do anything I want to but rather loves me just as I am. I have found a God who’s love has begun to melt my hard heart because he always calls me son, even on my worst day. I have found a God who is more interested in me than he is in my sin and is in fact my harbour in the storms of my worst sin and shame.
To make my point I don’t want to go to the easy grace passages in the New Testament but rather to the least favourite book in the Bible, Leviticus (don’t worry I won’t quote long portions).
No matter what early civilisation you belonged to each culture had at it’s core a sacrificial ritual. The idea being that when trouble strike you sacrifice till the “gods” are satisfied and fix your problem. Think about Cain and Abel and how the first murder was committed over this issue. Cultures could never know that God was satisfied unless he fixed their problem, and the longer the fix was delayed, the more intense the sacrifice, until they were willing to sacrifice children to their “gods”.
Enter Leviticus, what many call the most boring and legalistic book in the bible, but have you noticed? There is one incredible difference between the sacrificial system in Leviticus and every other, it is the declaration that if you follow these guidelines God will be satisfied! It is the first time a sacrificial system provided a way for us to know God was satisfied. That is the great news of Leviticus and it only gets better from there. (Check out Rob Bell’s “The God’s aren’t angry” he says it way better than me.)
As we draw closer to Easter may we remember that God has already declared himself satisfied and indeed happy with Jesus and with you. He has done this so that we can engage him in a healthy, authentic, safe and transforming relationship.
As always your comments are always appreciated
Ok so let me explain a little because these days, most of the time, theology get’s a bad wrap for causing divisions and arguments etc. I’ll confess up front that I love theology, but in my experience it is not theology per se that is to blame, it’s a little more complicated than that.
One group of Christians (let’s call them group A) tends to give theology a wide berth. They are suspicious because all they see are the arguments and divisions by people with a need to be right and to “defend the truth”. In that sense they do have a point, because many people might have even good theology but use it incorrectly and in ways that cause division and hurt.
However as I have observed these communities I have realised they have a problem. They are often breeding grown for all sorts of emotional, social and spiritual abuse, obviously to varying degrees. These people tend to place more emphasis on the heart and on the relationship with the Holy Spirit, trusting him to guide them rather than engaging the mind too much, which is often treated with suspicion. Again this sounds good but is too easily hijacked by man and his agenda’s, in the name of speaking on behalf of the Holy Spirit.
The second group (group B) strives for good theology, but it tends to be more head knowledge than heart, so while they have a good understanding of many things in the Bible, their hearts and lives don’t change. Truth, if it will change us has to be not only known and understood but experienced too. The problem with this group is they don’t give themselves time to experience their truth. I remember CAR magazine used to have a segment where they would keep a car for 10,000km and then do a detailed review on it, this group of Christians hardly takes their truth out for a test drive
(Quick confession: this is the group I have grown up and been an active part of for 34 years. Essentially when I say I have left religion I am speaking of leaving this group. I do not believe you can leave the Church because Church is something we are not somewhere we go)
As I understand it this group makes theology about being right or wrong and when one does that one becomes divisive by definition. The bible is used to win arguments, it is the answer book and they know where all the answers are. What makes the problem worse is that they believe they are right. This won’t be acknowledge but often the Bible is used to justify their current behaviour or beliefs as more right or scriptural and so they don’t grow spiritually because there is no need to.
There is a new group of people that I am becoming aware of and want to be a part of. These people have a deep, honest and intimate relationship with Jesus. I say honest because instead of declaring they have it all together, they are in touch where their need, their poverty of spirit as Matt 5 talks about. This group doesn’t interpret the Bible as answers, principles, or laws. It interprets the Bible through the person of Jesus.
For this group the Bible is not something to be mastered or systematised. They don’t do good theology to get a relationship with Jesus and his Father, rather their theology flows from their struggles and triumphs in a relationship with Him. They do not seek to master the text but to rather let the text master them. They don’t narrowly ask what is right or wrong but ask how our relationship with God and with man is either helped or hindered by that interpretation.
So in conclusion a lack of theology and bad theology are the same thing and will always be bad. Good theology is better but can also be bad when it becomes the goal. It is Jesus who must be pursued, it is Jesus who is the goal, it is Jesus who is our hermeneutic and if we can allow Jesus to interpret us, it will be Jesus who will be our theology and our unity.
Would love to hear your comments
From the outset I am not trying to put the bible down, rather I believe that we have elevated it to an unhealthy and unhelpful level that actually undermines it’s value and it’s authority. My concern is that very few “christians” lives actually change or are different to those who aren’t christian and I think the way we use the bible has a big part to play in that.
We live in a world where their are 2 basic objective ways of knowing things, these are called epistemologies and they are the scientific and the historical epistemology. Many people live in just one or the other and many live using both to know what we know about life and the world around us.
What the scientific epistemology is great at helping us know is all the stuff that is repeatable and observable, these are the things that you can isolate, control the environment and then replicate and you will be guaranteed the same outcome. This method is a great tool to have for working out objectively how we know stuff. However we can’t use it for all objective knowing. Have you ever wondered how people can even try to argue the Holocaust didn’t happen? I believe it is because those people are arguing from a scientific epistemology, it’s the wrong tool for the job, like a women trying to put her makeup on with a screw driver.
That brings me to the historical epistemology which is great at observing singularities, one-off events. Science not only can’t objectively prove faith, but it can’t really prove singularities either because it needs something to be repeatable. All people are in themselves singularities and so we look to historical evidence not scientific to prove their existence.
Thanks for hanging in there with me so far. The point is this for so many of us christians, when we say the bible is the “Word of God” we use it as our epistemology to know all sorts of things, we use the bible to argue a point, holding it up as the ultimate book of answers to all life’s questions. The problem is that the bible doesn’t claim to be the ultimate answer book.
We also often claim that the bible is objective truth, that the problem with the world is that all truth is relative. However we undermine ourselves with our multiple interpretations that we are willing to defend to the death.
Then you get a large group of christians who give way too much power to their own words. This as I understand it comes largely out of the faith movement where it is all about declaring the promises and speaking things out (only positive of course). The basic idea is that the bible is God’s word so when we His word with our words, they become his words in our situation, filled with immense power. There are all sorts of variations to this approach but to me it ends up being selfish, greedy, manipulative and looks a lot like casting spells if I am very honest.
This brings me to Jesus being the Word of God and here I want to share a little bit of what I like to call an epistemology of love. In Genesis we see God speak the words and creation happens, but if we look at Jesus in Johns Gospel we find that Jesus is the word which is involved in that creative process. In other words when God was creating the first time and he spoke, I don’t believe his words magically made the stars, rather I believe his words refer to his authority, that Jesus, carries that authority in himself, lovingly obeys and creates the stars etc.
We also see in Johns Gospel, that it is actually the account of New Creation, that once again Jesus is front and centre in bringing forth the new creation. However the way to the new creation is to bring an end to the old which is done spectacularly through the greatest, most objective display of love ever given. It describes the nature of love which is self-sacrificing. It is also the basis/foundation of the new creation.
The basis and the reason the old creation will come to an end is because it was corrupted by the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. I think that when we use the bible to tell us what is right and what is wrong, we are still tapping into that tree. When however when we see Jesus as the Word of God, we tap into the Tree of Life, which was paralleled by the cross. It is the reason why we need a new creation, it is the foundation of new creation and as we receive this self-sacrificing love, and then begin to release it in the world around us, we will be releasing as Jesus did the new creation into the midst of the old. We will be living from the epistemology of love.
I am not saying we as chrisitans should through out history and science, not at all, but hopefully I have been able to give you a glimpse of how a self-sacrificing love, can give us and take us to places that history and science on their own, never will.
To put it another way when we make the bible “God’s Word”, instead of having a relationship with the person of truth, who enters our lives and transforms us, we try to master the book, categorise it, package and market it, and ultimately once we are done we put it back on the shelf. The only time we pick it up again is to justify a favourite behaviour or to win an argument. How is that objective, how is that life transforming, it isn’t really.
We need a more dynamic, more transforming, more living, more loving truth than that. What we need is Jesus.
(this reflects my current journey and understanding, it is not the end but the beginning for me. I would love to converse with you around this issue as I need and we all need to grow in this area)
“If the Bible is God’s instruction manual on how 2 live life, Jesus is God’s instruction manual on how 2 read the Bible.” Bruxy Cavey
Early on in my transformation, as I was allowing God to redefine everything, we started looking at how we read the Bible. The reason why, was that I was finding a new Jesus, a new Message, a new Love, a new Grace, a new Church, and it kinda seemed a little too good to be true. What happens if I was just defining everything in ways that I wanted to be able to feel good, to make God in my image and control him. To be honest human beings have been doing this for centuries, I am not immune. Besides why does the “church” teach something so different?
I decided I would relook at how to interpret the Bible. Once I had done that, I figured I would be able to check these new ideas against this new more accurate interpretation of the Bible. I also then started learning about different epistemologies. Basically what I have come to believe is that I had been reading the bible incorrectly in my religious days, the very thing I feared I was doing now, I had actually been guilty of all along. It is a tough statement to make, and I am sorry if it offends, but I have done my best to be honest and accurate and yet I believe most christianity is currently reading the bible wrong, they might as well be holding it upside down.
Ok, I don’t want to bash, in fact the reason that reinventing the way I read the bible was so important to me, and can be for others, is that when we are being set free of religion but still read the bible religiously, too many people toss the bible out. It makes the bible something that trips them up on the road to freedom, instead of being something that sets them free from religion.
So to show there is something’s wrong with how we read the bible, let me illustrate by asking some questions and making some statements:
- You talk about a God of love, but I just don’t see that in the Old Testament
- I have always thought that God was only punishing sin on the cross, I have never been taught that God was curing sin on the cross
- New Testament Christians didn’t believe in the rapture?
- If the Bible is objective truth, then why does the church worldwide have so many different interpretations on the same passages, interpretations that they defend so dogmatically, that they are willing to separate and form different denominations and movements?
- Did you know that the Gospel and salvation are not the same thing?
What I love about that Bruxy Cavey quote is that he exposes one of the main ways we mess up the bible for ourselves, thinking that we can find all of life’s answers in it. I believe the only way we can accurately and unreligiously interpret the bible is by reading it through the person Jesus. What does that mean? I think it means that if you want to know what God is like, don’t read the Old Testament, first get to know Jesus in the Gospels, and then go find him in the Old Testament.
The Bible is not a book of answers, it’s not a book on how to be a great leader, it’s not a book of what’s right or what’s wrong and it’s not a book of principles for successful living or self-fulfillment, it is not suppossed to be used to win an argument, it shouldn’t be used to control others and it is not the “Word of God”. Ok just keep breathing. The bible as I understand it is a bunch of books written by men telling their story. These men were inspired by God and so they tell his story as well. The story God is telling is his story about his son, Jesus, so that when Jesus says that he is the Word of God, he is saying the bible isn’t. As John Wimber said:
“The bible is like a menu, it describes the meal, it isn’t the meal.”
I think that one of the traps we fall into with the Bible, is that we make it to be things for us that it is not and never claimed to be. The Bible is meant to reveal Jesus to us. Jesus himself said this. In fact at the end of Luke on the road to Emmaus and then right after that in Jerusalem Jesus spends time with the disciples teaching them a different way to interpret the scriptures. This is really important I think because if your read the New Testament it does exactly this, it finds Jesus in the Old Testament, and then finds him living in their midst through the Holy Spirit in the New.
The mistake we all make so often is to make truth a matter of the head, of understanding, of more knowledge. What God I believe wants us to get is that the Word of God is a revolutionary, unreligious person called Jesus Christ, his son, and that when we have a relationship with him, truth will become a matter of the heart. So that instead of us being divided by the bible, instead of us being controlled by it, or using it to control others, we will have a relationship with Jesus, the Word of God, and in so doing we will stand together in his love for us and extend a welcoming hand to those who have yet to know his transforming love for them.
sorry for the long post, I hope it was worth the read 😉