Wednesday, April 24, 2013

reading the Bible without prejudice

IMG_3731I had planned to begin today by apologizing for yesterday’s “quick and easy” trick of pasting in a passage of scripture instead of actually writing a post.
However, and in re-reading the passage I used, I’m blown away once again by how directly God speaks into my life through The Word, and how transformational scripture can be when we let it be “a lamp for our feet, and a light for our path” (Psalm 119:105).
The way God continues to guide me via God’s Word is an ongoing journey, and I’ve been thinking a lot about how that works out in my experience:
  • Is the Bible a series of short, self-contained, bullet-points of specific instruction?
  • Or is the Bible an integrated, beautiful, complex guidebook that serves as a companion on the journey?
I really like what C.S. Lewis wrote about this when he was talking about Jesus in his epic Mere Christianity. “The Church exists for nothing else but to draw [people] into Christ… If they are not doing that, all the cathedrals, clergy, missions, sermons, even the Bible itself, are simply a waste of time. God became Man for no other purpose.”
RELATIONSHIP: The whole reason that God created people (men and women) was for deep relationship with God and with one-another. Jesus came to earth to facilitate the restoration of that relationship. The Bible is the story of how that struggle worked out over several hundreds of years. It is The Greatest Story Ever Told.
We make a mistake, then, when we use the Bible in ways other than – as Lewis puts it – to draw [people] into Christ.
I believe we’re missing the point when – for example – we use scripture to prop up cultural contexts that were in play when particular parts of the Bible were written. The story of the early church, then, is the story of First Century believers working out what it means to follow Jesus, not a rationalization for maintaining institutions (in existence at the time) such as slavery, or a social hierarchy that places men in domination over women.
300px-Hands_of_God_and_AdamThe Bible is the story of God’s authority, not a rubber stamp for the abuse of ours; and it’s the story of God’s reaching into human history to restore broken relationships.
That’s some of the background for the following words I wrote this morning in response to one reader’s question regarding Rebekah’s role as pastor (and women in ministry in general); he said he was curious, and not trying to start an in-house debate:
No need to worry about an in-house debate – those are no fun and usually don’t achieve anything anyway!
- But, yes, Rebekah is the senior pastor at our church (we have three on staff), and God has used her powerfully and consistently as a preacher. Isn’t that the way with God, doing things “other” than what we’d expect? Just as God used Deborah as a Judge and leader of Israel, gifted Philip’s four daughters as prophets/preachers, and had Paul break out of the bounds of social convention by counting women as colleagues…. (and so much more).
- We’re always asking the question, “What else does the Bible say?” Should women keep quiet, or should they keep their heads covered when they speak in church (the New Testament says both)? Should Christians free their slaves? or treat them as brothers? or (in later letters) slip back into the slave-master relationship? There are many examples of specific instructions that are different in different places/circumstances.
- Generally there seems to be a movement from the early letters (definitely by Paul) where his Christianity was radical… to later letters (such as Timothy – consensus is that they were not written by Paul) where the practice of Christianity seems to be drawn back toward and into social convention (slavery, male hierarchy etc).
- Anyway (since you did ask), it’s clear to us that God does call both men and women into leadership, that the scriptures support this, and that God gifts whosoever God chooses in preaching/teaching.
- As a family, we’re grateful and humbled by all God continues to do. God’s creativity and imagination are so much more liberating than the tendency we all have to try and make our faith look like the culture we live in, and conform to its norms. I love this from Colossians: “Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules?”
- I like to say, along with Joshua, “Choose this day whom you will serve, but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”
Always reading, always praying, always learning - DEREK

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