People of the Book

an exercise in missing the point

This post from ASBO Jesus is great for reminding us that our first love is a relationship with Jesus.  I've heard far too many times that our only way of knowing who Jesus is, is from the Bible.  But even the Pharisees couldn't work out what God was like from simply being those who read the Scriptures...

You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that testify on my behalf.  Yet you refuse to come to me to have life. JOHN 5.39,40

So how do we as evangelical Christians, those who love Scripture, those who believe that this book is a radical life-changing story that can and should impact our faith journey, be those who know how to come to Jesus, through and, dare I say it, beyond, Scripture?

What is it that makes some look at Scripture and proclaim goodness in apartheid, slavery, oppression of women, and others think that the Scripture (as currently understood at that time) is wrong. Those of us who love Scripture and believe that it cannot be ultimately instructing us to do wrong things, find a way around this.  We either take to a literal interpretation come hell or high water, or we decide that it is the predominant interpretation which is wrong, that Scripture needs looking at again because we've misunderstood it.

I confess that this is my approach.  But I think we all have to come to the reality, at some point, that we have to assess where our assessments of what we think the Bible says, are coming from.  It is my somehow intangible strange confusing wonderful unpindownable relationship with Jesus which tells me that I simply cannot think that the Bible says it's ok to buy and sell people.  But I still want to go to the Bible and say, 'Look, See, the Word of Life'.

How does that kind of approach not become horribly individualistic and relativistic?  The Bible says what I think it does.  Do you know - I don't know.  How did the new approach to the Scriptures of a small bunch of 1st Century Palestinians grow and spread like wildfire?

I suppose it has something to do with community - that Jesus is present in me by the Holy Spirit, but is also present in the community I commit to.  It has something to do with prayer - real deep contemplative basking in God's presence prayer, not the kind that is a bit of a shopping list, or asking God to change all the people that we don't like so that they become more like us.  It must have something to do with spending time with the people that Jesus would have spent time with; the sad, confused, poor and sinful.  It's getting to know the voice of God that whispers on the wind, so that we choose the right thing, even when there's not a Bible reference to back it up.

I think Scripture is wonderful, but our God is beyond them..oh yes God is (before you leap)....and how we figure out this life with God, together with the story of God that is captured in Scripture, is part of joy of this life of discipleship.


Pluralist (Adrian Worsfold) said...

I think the tone on Fulcrum, including attacks of assumption on you, is very regrettable and completely unnecessary. But if you allow the broken record technique to be used again and again, it boxes in what could be a better discussion. The repetition is telling. I come to this from the outside of course, but I'd assume some flexibility with the Bible rather than it being used as a book of indexed rules.

Rob Scot said...

I was at a symposium a while back where the main speaker said something I thought was really profound. He said, "Christians are not, strictly speaking, people of the book. Rather, we are people of a Person, the Person Jesus Christ." By contrast, I heard a speaker on a Christian radio program saying that if he had to choose between prayer and the Bible, he would have to choose the Bible. How can you choose a book about someone over an actual relationship with that person? Don't get me wrong, I have a very high view of Scripture, but I agree with you that 'God is beyond'. If He could be fully contained in the pages of the Bible, how great a God could we expect Him to be?