I’ve been at the Ecclesia National Gathering in DC. It’s a network of moderate evangelicals who use the word “missional” a lot and plant churches and stuff like that. We just had a presentation from Bill Webb about the nature of the Bible’s authority. One of his points was that the Bible’s authority is always “accommodated” to its particular cultural context. He shared two very awkward Biblical commands, Proverbs 31:6-7 and Deuteronomy 25:11-12, that I’m pretty confident no Christian would ever obey. Continue Reading
Thanks very much for your responses to my last post on Biblical inerrancy. Though some were a bit snarky, they were actually quite helpful to my sermon preparation process, which was my goal with the post. What has emerged out of that wrestling is that there seem to be three ways of understanding Biblical authority, which basically amount to three interpretations of the most cited proof-text for Biblical authority: 2 Timothy 3:16: “All scripture is God-breathed and useful for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness.” Continue Reading
This weekend, we will be wrestling with what it means for the Bible to be our authoritative guide for how to live as Christians when some things in the Bible were written in a different era when people didn’t have the scientific information they do today. Some Christians hold to a position of Biblical inerrancy, which means different things to different people but basically means that the Bible has to be without error in any claims that it makes like Methusaleh’s lifespan of 969 years, for example. There’s an atheist who made cartoon videos about Noah’s ark poking fun at some of the logistical issues in the story if we try to make it historical like the number of inches of rain per second that would have to fall on every square inch of the Earth for 40 days and 40 nights to raise the global sea level over the top of Mt. Everest. But there are two verses in the Old Testament that are problematic to Biblical inerrantists for a different reason: they make God look like one of the capricious ancient mythological deities from whose stories the Bible may have been originally derived.
This Christmas, I stumbled over a verse, Luke 2:39, that I had never noticed before: “When they had finished everything required by the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth.” Here’s the problem. According to Matthew 2:13-15, Mary and Joseph have to flee to Egypt to escape the wrath of King Herod and in order to fulfill the prophecy, “Out of Egypt I have called my son.” Unless we make a ridiculously contrived interpretive choice to call fleeing to Egypt part of fulfilling “the law of the Lord” that Luke surprisingly doesn’t say anything explicit about, then this text is a real problem. Continue Reading
It’s probably not best practice for a preacher to say this publicly, but my sermon this weekend was pretty awful. I think it’s because I’ve psyched myself out thinking that my congregation isn’t interested in the esoteric, mystical theological nerdiness that I care about, so I got tangled up in knots trying to figure out how to craft a relevant message instead of listening to what God had given me to say, which is why it never came together. So first I wanted to say I’m sorry to anyone who was there. And I wanted to try to write now what I should have pulled together more coherently before I stood up in front of God’s people. What I wanted to say in my sermon is that the Bible is so much more than a reference manual or a rulebook; the reason it’s called “God-breathed” is because God wants to use it to make our existence inspired, which means to live in the freedom and delight of His breath.
This is a post where I’m raising a question that I flat-out don’t know the answer to. I watched a conversation yesterday between Derek Rishmawy who represents what I call the “Calvinist you can talk to” perspective and Stephanie Drury who is a “post-evangelical feminist.” Derek had written a post about the importance of not dissing King Solomon and the sacredness of scripture just because Mark Driscoll has misused Solomon’s words in Proverbs and the Song of Songs. Stephanie’s response was that for people who have been spiritually abused, some words in the Bible are permanently toxic as a result.
Hey friends, so I’m going to do a series on most contentious Bible verses and I need your nominations. I was going to call it most abused Bible verses and/or most ignored Bible verses, but I wanted to keep it a little bit flexible and not set myself up as the perfectly (arrogant and) erudite interpreter of the scripture everyone else has screwed up. So whether the verse is contentious because it’s an obnoxious proof-text or it’s an embarrassment to Biblical literalism or it’s been heavily debated or it makes secular liberals howl, hit me up and let me know which ones you want to write about!
For the last month, I’ve been reading David Bentley Hart’s Beauty of the Infinite, which is one of the most profound and difficult texts I’ve read. Hart uses the theology of Gregory of Nyssa and other sources to talk about the relationship between our desire and God’s beauty. On the first weekend in December, Rachel Held Evans spoke to our annual Virginia United Methodist youth retreat about “living in the questions” as a way of understanding our faith. The Saturday morning talk was about seeing the Bible as a “conversation-starter not a conversation-stopper.” Rachel questioned whether the Bible should be viewed as a self-evident “blueprint” for every aspect of life. Weaving her talk together with Hart’s book left me with the thought that reducing God’s word to a finite blueprint not only snuffs out the conversation and fellowship that are supposed to emerge out of our sacred canon; it also kills the worship of our infinite Creator.
So Rachel Held Evans is apparently becoming this year’s Rob Bell. She’s written a book called A Year of Biblical Womanhood in which she documents a year of taking absolutely literally a bunch of things that the Bible tells ancient Israelite and 1st century Palestinian women to do. I haven’t yet received my review copy, but from what I hear, it’s mischievous in a Tina Fey kind of way, which has predictably rankled the Southern Baptist “bishop” Al Mohler and his crew who made a video about Biblical inerrancy in which they called Rachel’s book a “mockery” of the Bible among other things. I think the reason Al Mohler and people of his mold don’t get Christians like Rachel is because they don’t speak irony, which is the first language of a large chunk of my generation and younger who inhabit the postmodern world outside the gated communities of suburban megachurchianity. Christians today who want to share the gospel with any credibility in postmodern culture must learn how to talk like Tina Fey, Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, et all. Otherwise our evangelism is about as effective as a black and white Reefer Madness video in a junior high health class. Continue Reading