Monthly Archives: September 2011

Gratitude, the “Anti-Snarky” Prescription

Sunset from Sandias

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I am not exactly sure who invented the word “snarky.” Whoever it was, I sure do appreciate it. You can say, “sarcastic,” but it just does not have the same tone and verbal punch that “snarky” has.

Admittedly, my last two posts have leaned toward the snarky side. Some might even say that one or both of them have fallen over the cliff and are certifiably snarky. Occasionally I find myself swimming in an ocean of snark and if I am not too careful everything I do reeks of snarkism.

So, as a counter-weight to the last two posts (which, as far as content goes, I stand behind 100%, I just may have gotten carried away with the snarky comments) I would like to post this reflection on gratitude. I want to share some names, and some anonymous references, that have deeply influenced me and whose discipleship has deepened my faith in Jesus. A couple are just very special people to me who helped me in ways they will probably never know.

First, there was a whole group of people in Santa Fe, NM who met (and the congregation is still there) on the corner of Galisteo and Cordova streets. A great group of Christians who laughed and loved and sang and prayed and communed and sometimes fought with each other. Next, there was the much larger family that met at the Montgomery Blvd. congregation in Albuquerque, NM. Men like Harvey Porter and Bobby Hise (who have both passed away) showed me what Christian ministry was all about. A janitor by the name of George Olsmstead gave me one of my first jobs and showed me so much about what a Christian servant should be. A junior high school teacher by the name of Odies Wright showed me what a real smile and laugh looks like. I met great elders like George Tucker and J.T. Stanphill.

Moving a little further down my winding trail there are all the scholars at ACU that molded and shaped me: Ian Fair, Neil Lightfoot, Bill Humble, Eugene Clevenger, Lemoine Lewis, John Willis, Everett Ferguson. In my doctoral studies I have been deeply touched by John Hull, Kurt Fredrickson, Keith Matthews, Todd Hunter, Richard Peace and the entire staff at the D.Min. program at Fuller Theological Seminary.

 

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After a really rough part of my life two ministers at the Netherwood Park congregation – David Nestor and Walter Lane – really helped me straighten some things out. Their gifts may have seemed to them to be exceedingly small, but the significance far outweighs the original size.

My primary flight instructor was named Troy Horchner – who was followed by a whole host of great guys who taught me to keep the shiny side up and the rubber side down. The greatest owner of a company I ever worked for was Wayne South, and the best boss who ever had to chew me out was Colin Crim.

Sometimes I wish I could say what I feel very deeply without getting quite so snarky. Snark does not necessarily advance one’s arguments. I realize that, and acknowledge my failures in that regard. But to these individuals, both named and unnamed, I want to thank you from the bottom of my most unsnarky heart. Just taking a trip down my memory lane and realizing how much I owe to so many has tempered the feelings that bubbled up in my previous posts.

And I promise to apply my snark-o-meter a little more frequently in future posts. Or, at the very least, give a snarky warning at the beginning…

Demanding Quality Lectures/Seminars

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Yesterday I challenged the leadership of local congregations (ministers, elders, deacons) to make it their priority to attend lectures, classes and seminars to improve their leadership knowledge and skills. I also spoke to the congregations and made it clear that if we are going to make these demands of our leaders then we ought to pay for their attendance.

Today I take aim at our colleges, universities, and larger congregations and ask, “What is the use of attending a class, lecture or  seminar if all we are going to hear is pabulum?” In other words, there is no reason to get all excited about sending our leaders out to something that will kill perfectly good brain cells and waste otherwise profitable work hours.

It really was not all that long ago that a popular lectureship among the Churches of Christ would draw 4,000-5,000 guests. Today I am told the same lectureship is a shadow of its old self. I cannot speak of actual numbers because I have not been able to find any – they are not publicized anymore. Back during the same time period one of the largest congregations of the Churches of Christ in New Mexico held a yearly teacher’s workshop and mini-lectureship. That event followed the path of the Edsel after just a few years. There are quality lectureships out there, but I hear anecdotally that the attendance at most lectureships is dwindling. Why?

(I am sure that somewhere a lectureship is thriving. As with every general description, your mileage may vary.)

It is not because of a lack of desire among ministers. Just about every minister I have talked to recently wants to attend a quality lectureship. Their congregations are willing to pay for them to attend. But they do not travel to any because of the lack of quality in the themes and speakers.

Back in the day when the aforementioned lectureship was at capacity the bulk of the lectures were built around biblical topics and issues confronting local ministries. There were scholarly exegeses of difficult passages, classes for preaching various texts, classes for counseling, etc. There were panel discussions that allowed for audience participation. Today, as I look over a recent schedule of classes I see a slate of topics that (if truth in advertising rules were strictly enforced) should be re-named “Can’t We All Just Get Along” “How To Ignore Texts You Don’t Want To Preach” “Leading Your Congregation Through Focus Group Theology” “Forget Bible Study – Teach Your Teens Video Games” and perhaps my favorite, “Worship Is Just About What I Want Anyway, So Why Should I Listen To You?” (Snarky comment alert, by the way.)

On the other end of the theological spectrum is the lectureship with a range of topics covering 35 variations of the statement, “We’re Right, And Everyone Else is Wrong.” Official membership cards are checked at the door nightly to make sure no heretics are accidentally admitted .

Just today I discovered a theological conference at Wheaton College discussing Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Now, the last time I checked, Wheaton College was not exactly considered to be a bastion of Lutheran orthodoxy. But they are hosting a conference on Dietrich Bonhoeffer – Christ and Culture. Wow. Imagine that. An entire conference devoted to the life and teachings of one of the great theologians of the 20th century, hosted by a school that has (to my knowledge) no formal links to the church that Bonhoeffer served. Just serving the greater church and theologians, ministers and church leaders who want to sharpen their pencils, and their minds, for a couple of days of stimulating thought.

Colleges, Universities, and large congregations have for many years served as the vanguard for Christian thought and practice. It is critical that they take the blessings of their size and influence and use them to the praise and glory of God. One way that they can serve small congregations, ministers and leaders of all different theological persuasions is to provide quality, challenging and timely resources in a format that is inviting and rewarding. The church not only needs such events, it deserves such events.

And, let’s leave off the classes on Focus Group Theology, shall we?

Demanding Ministry/Leadership Improvement

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Okay, I’m going to get in trouble from everybody with this one – but that’s okay. I feel a little provocative today.

Professional pilots (everybody from Certified Flight Instructors to trans-oceanic people haulers) have to take proficiency test flights every six months. Nurses and doctors have to complete Continuing Education Units. Many career fields demand that employees create and meet improvement goals in order to receive raises and increased benefits.

Do churches demand the same of their ministers? I know many do. And these are congregations that are continually being fed and challenged and motivated. Just like in the secular world, these congregations connect receiving additional education and attending special seminars to raises and increased benefits. The more willing the minister is to improve his knowledge and ministry skills, the more the congregation is going to benefit and so they reciprocate.

I also know for some ministers this would be anathema. “What do you mean, actually demand that I attend a seminar or class every year? Don’t you know that I know everything already? How dare you question my intelligence or ministry skills!” You probably don’t want to listen that bad boy’s sermon.

But now for the flip side. How many congregations demand that their elders attend a yearly seminar or college class? Whoa, now we are really talking rebellion. How dare we have the temerity to suggest that old high and mighty hitch-in-his-britches might actually profit from attending a college level class in religion, counseling, communication, missions or leadership? Okay, maybe “hitch-in-his-britches” is a little over the top. There are many, many dedicated elders who devote many hours to learning more about their responsibilities and the work of the church. But the point needs to be made. We are far more likely to demand our minister improve his service, but we fail to realize that the real movement in a congregation should come from the elders – and how many times to we demand they improve their service?

And, to top everything off, do we pay for these mandatory seminars and classes? Do we provide our ministers, their wives, the elders and their wives, and even the deacons and their wives with enough remuneration so that they are not handicapped by trying to make their ministries better? I never had to pay for an FAA check ride. I was actually paid to attend a seminar to increase my skills as an adjunct instructor at a community college. Unfunded mandates are not very popular with any segment of the population, but should especially be vanquished from the Lord’s church.

I recoil from the idea of “yeah, that’s okay for an airline or a hospital, but this is the church.” So, we demand this continuing education for transporting people or setting a broken bone, but dealing with people’s spiritual well being and eternal destiny is somehow less important? I truly fail to see the logic in that.

Culture is changing. Biblical studies evolve. New frontiers in biblical research are constantly being explored. We learn more and more about missions, counseling, and communication. Do you think that requiring one or two weeks out of the year for our ministers, the elders, and the deacons to keep abreast of these changes is asking too much?

I won’t even go into the idea of requiring a ministerial “check-ride” on a regular basis. Not even I am up to that kind of abuse.

The Death Penalty and the Sanctity of Life

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The executions of two convicted murderers on Wednesday has reignited the discussion of the appropriateness of the death penalty. With a topic that holds so much emotion (both pro and con) it is difficult to have a calm discussion, but I would like to share a couple of thoughts that I hope will be viewed by both sides as valid arguments, regardless of personal convictions.

I will begin with the arguments against my overall conclusions. With the recent reversal of several convictions due to DNA and other evidentiary mistakes it is clear that many individuals have been wrongly accused, tried, and pronounced guilty. That fact alone should send a very strong message to prosecutors, judges, and juries that are confronted with death penalty cases. It is beyond doubt that, due to the inequality of our justice system, innocent individuals have been executed for crimes they did not commit. This is a horrid evil in a society that claims to have the best judicial system in the world. The execution of an innocent individual makes the entire populace guilty of the miscarriage of justice – of murder if you will.

That having been openly admitted, I am still in favor of the death penalty for certain crimes. The reason? It is because God has made life sacred, and in so doing he made a distinction between innocent life and the life of a murderer. One who takes a life according to premeditation has forfeited his or her life. He or she is no longer innocent, has usurped the role of God in the taking of life, and has placed all of society at risk with his or her behavior. I do not buy the argument that a person cannot so act as to make their life forfeit. If you kill as a result of premeditation (God protected the life of the one who kills by accident, without malice or the one who kills in self defense) you simply give up your right to life. The life that is sacred is the life of the innocent victim.

The mistake that many opponents of the death penalty make is in declaring all life as sacred. That is simply false. It is a lie. Not all life is sacred. The life that God has given and protected is sacred. The life of the innocent is sacred. The life of the murderer is not sacred. It is forfeit. It is to be taken by the society that was destroyed by the murder of the innocent victim. The crime of murder is not just a crime against one person, it is a crime against society. By disregarding the life of the victim by preserving the life of the guilty the whole fabric of society is ripped. We are paying for that ruined society with every murder that goes unpunished.

So how are we to manage? Until society realizes that all innocent life is sacred we will continue to harbor guilty murderers, and give them better treatment than many children receive in inner city slums. But, and this is critical, until we figure out a way to even the justice system so that those who are innocent of the crime of murder are not falsely convicted we should be profoundly careful about employing the ultimate punishment of taking someone’s life. We cannot undue the death penalty once it has been falsely applied.

God made it very clear. Do not punish the innocent, and do not acquit the guilty. Both are sins. We will be held accountable for both. That is why the justice system should truly be about a search for truth, and not which side has the most money or the greater weight of public opinion.

May God forgive us for the sins we have committed in the name of justice.

Do Christians Love the Bible Anymore?

I am in the process of preaching a series of lessons on the general subject of reading the Bible. I know there is a temptation for every generation to look back with awe and forward with fear, but at this point in my life I have to question the future of the group of people who call themselves the “church.”

I am not that old…at least I don’t think that I am. I can still remember a time when individuals of various religious groups held to their beliefs firmly, sometimes defensively. Today the religious landscape has changed dramatically. When I was a teenager anyone who firmly held to a doctrine or a particular view of Scripture was viewed with respect. There were fierce debates, to be sure. Much of what was labeled as “discussion” was clearly unhealthy. But at least the differences were well known, and there was a foundation that could be built on for honest and healthy debate. Today, anyone who holds to a firm belief in a doctrine or to a particular interpretation of Scripture is viewed as a ideologue, a crank, or a reactionary nut.

The result is nobody holds to any firm convictions anymore. “You believe what you want to believe, I’ll believe what I want to believe, and we’ll all just be friends.” Individuals who hold diametrically opposing views of salvation, the atonement, the nature of God, of Jesus and of the Holy Spirit are told those opposing viewpoints don’t really matter. In fact, I guess you can believe in God or Allah and it is really not supposed to make any difference. Apparently you can believe that there are behaviors that are clearly defined as sin in the Bible, and on any given Sunday you are supposed to worship with someone who is actively practicing that sinful lifestyle just because they “say” they believe in Jesus, whatever that means to them. Just don’t say anything to them, because you might offend them, and heaven knows we are not supposed to offend our brothers or sisters.

It is an often stated truism that says the church needs to get back to Jesus. I am becoming more convinced by the passing years that the church needs to return to the Old Testament. We need to hear again the stories that tell us what God thinks of religious syncretism. We need to read about what God thinks about foreign gods. We need to read what God thinks about his people diluting his laws and his plain directions given through his prophets.

When Jesus said, “the gate is small, and the way is narrow, and few are those who find it” he was not talking about the few in the church and the many in the world. He was talking about the church, and the words were recorded by the evangelist for the purpose of the church calling itself back to moral and doctrinal purity.

We can talk about the emerging church, the missional church, the emerging missional church, the seeker-sensitive church, the institutional church, or the attractional church all we want to and even more than we want to and absolutely nothing is going to change. The only way the church is going to change is if each person who has decided to become a disciple of Christ makes the commitment that they are going have their hearts transformed to be like the heart of God.

And, forgive me if I am old fashioned, reactionary and a right-wing nut case. But the only way that is going to happen is if the disciples of Christ learn to love the Word of God again. That means Bible reading, Bible study, the memorization of Scripture and the discussion and debate about the meaning of Scripture.

The prophets of God can no longer preach “peace, peace” when there is no peace. The prophets of God can no longer “call evil good, and good evil.” God’s people can no longer repeat, “The temple of God, the temple of God, the temple of God.”

For God’s sake, and for the sake of the world – if Jesus died to fulfill the will of his Father, don’t you think we as his followers could at least risk being called a derogatory name in order to defend him?

Blessed, or Happy?

My Life in Pictures: Day 246 - New Bible

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I just received a copy of the new Common English Bible. A couple of years ago I made a commitment to update my library of translations, and this translation is pretty much “hot off the press.”

I have not had an opportunity to do an in-depth analysis of the translation, just checked a few passages to see how they handle the ones that tend to give certain individuals or groups heartburn (Isa. 7:14, various passages regarding baptism, Ps. 23, Gen. 1, you get the idea). I really like certain aspects of the translation and publication – for example the publishers chose to print all O.T. quotations in the N. T. in italics. When you get to a writing (such as the book of Hebrews) that is so rich in O.T. quotations that is a tremendous benefit. I also like the short sentence structure that the CEB uses. This calls for a greater use of the Dynamic Equivalence translation philosophy, but it greatly improves the readability of the text (compare Rom. 1:1-7 with the NASB, for instance.)

However, I do have a few bones to pick with the translation, and after a more in-depth study I may have more. I turned to Matthew 5:3-11 and almost started crying. Here the section heading reads, “Happy People.” In place of the theologically pregnant word “Blessed” the CEB reads “Happy.” Not only is this a gross distortion of the meaning of the Greek word makairos, it inverts the message that Jesus was communicating. The beatitudes are not about a cheesy, tiptoe-through-the-tulips kind of emotional high. Jesus was teaching about the deep, inward, life changing and life renewing gift of blessedness that only God can give and has absolutely nothing to do with our outward circumstances.

(At least the translators are consistent – the Hebrew word for “Blessed” is likewise translated “Happy” in Psalm 1. That does not relieve my heartburn.)

In our Western culture we have completely lost the concept of blessing. By cheapening the word to “happy” this distortion is compounded. The biblical concept of blessing refers to the gift of an assurance of God’s love and providence in spite of the ups and downs of human existence. People who are poor in spirit (CEB – “hopeless”) are not necessarily happy, but they can be deeply blessed. People who mourn over their sins and the sins of others are clearly not happy, but God can and will bless them with spiritual comfort. “Happy” simply destroys the meaning of the entire context.

I really like several aspects of the new CEB. But this “happy-clappy ain’t you glad God is your pappy” is just wrong. It is not the gospel. God wants all men and women everywhere to be blessed, and he will bestow blessings on everyone who truly seeks him in obedient faith. But God never said he wanted everyone to be happy.

Otherwise, the Minnesota Vikings would win every Super Bowl, I would catch a fish with every cast, my garden would never have a weed in it, and I could play Vivaldi on my guitar flawlessly every time I picked it up.

Every translation has it strengths, every translation has its weaknesses. The CEB is no exception. I will not disregard this important addition to biblical studies because of my issue over the translation of one word. But I do encourage everyone to read carefully – whatever translation you use. Better yet, use as many as you can. That way all the weakensses of each translation can be evened out.

I may not be happy, but I can be truly, deeply and wonderfully blessed. I wish the same for you.

Genuine Service or Self-Serving Theatrics

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This morning’s rant is brought to you by a perfect storm of colliding ideas and temporary irritability…

In training for an Instrument Rating for your pilot’s certificate you are taught that there should be no wasted motion in the cockpit. There are procedures and tasks for every phase of flight. If you start off “behind the airplane” as you taxi out for takeoff you will be behind the airplane the entire trip. Having exposed myself to that reality more than once I can attest to the fact that it is an uncomfortable feeling – and sometimes terrifying!

A recent blog post by Timothy Archer http://www.timothyarcher.com/kitchen/?p=5373, and a subsequent conversation concerning John 13 got me to thinking. How much of what we tie to Jesus washing the disciples’ feet is really service, and how much is simply self-serving theatrics?

Apparently many people look to John 13 as the example par excellance of Christian service. If so, let’s look at the context. Jesus is serving as host at a supper. As host he would be responsible for providing the service of a servant to wash the feet of his guests. Instead, he takes the role of the servant upon himself and washes the disciples feet, thereby teaching them the lesson of real servant leadership. He demonstrated, by washing a bunch of smelly, definitely unhygeinic feet, that if you want to be a leader you had better be willing to assume the most menial of positions.

Segue to 21st century America. Someone wants to demonstrate that they are a “servant.” So they take a bowl, a towel, and some water and ask someone to remove their $75.00 leather shoes and their $10.00 protective socks and roll up their $50.00 tailored pants so that the “servant” can “wash” the perfectly clean and perhaps even pedicured feet of someone who showered not much more than six or eight hours ago. With their conscience thus assuaged, the “servant” can then walk outside and climb in their Cadillac Escalade and drive off, totally oblivious to the homeless person crumpled up on the corner, or the prostitute selling her body for enough money to buy her next fix.

I’m sorry, but I just don’t buy it. While it would be wrong for a blanket condemnation to be made for every person who wants to wash someone’s feet, I believe that what transpires in the overwhelming majority of these “service” demonstrations is pure theatrics. For those who genuinely are demonstrating their servant mentality I apologize, and this post does not apply to you. While I do seriously question the procedure, I cannot question the intent of the heart.

However, if Jesus was alive today he would not worry about our feet! Our feet are perhaps the most protected and clean part of our bodies. There is no risk in washing someone’s feet today – no chance that you will come into contact with animal or human refuse, of thorns or open wounds. In our antiseptic culture the idea that washing someone’s feet is actually the service of a slave is laughable. So why do we perpetuate the myth?

If you want to “wash someone’s feet” today go scrub the toilet for someone who is confined to a wheelchair and cannot clean their own home. Change the bedding as wash the clothes for a lonely senior citizen. Mow the lawn and weed the garden of someone who must use a walker or wheelchair to get around their house. Or, if you absolutely must wash someone’s feet, go to the inner city and wash the feet of the homeless, the drug addicted, the panhandlers. And then invite them to your home for a special feast. Remember, Jesus was serving as a host during a very important meal. Don’t imitate half-way! If you are going to use John 13 as your proof text, don’t  just pick the parts that you want to follow and eliminate the rest.

And, by the way, don’t forget that Jesus washed the feet of the disciples just a few hours before he died for them on a cross. Just exactly why is it that we are all so motivated and willing to follow the example of Jesus in John 13, and when John 19 comes around we suddenly have soccer practice or a PTA meeting or a dance recital to attend?

If you want to stay alive when you are flying a plane in the clouds there is no room in the cockpit for theatrics. I don’t think there should be any more room for theatrics in our servant leadership.

End of rant…

Some Thoughts on 9/11, 10 Years Later

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In respect to any life changing event a 10 year anniversary tends to get a lot of attention. So all of the attention directed to the 10th anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon is understandable, if not somewhat overblown. Since our media producers tend to create more stories than they actually report this tendency is even more pronounced in the national media. However, there is a real value in looking back, and so a 10th anniversary of anything, good or ill, is a good time to do so.

So, along with everyone else in the national media and the blogosphere, I would like to share my thoughts and observations on this solemn occasion.

Thought #1 – Military action can destroy opposing militaries, but it has little effect against an ideology. The Muslim fanaticism that created the attacks on 9/11 is an ideology, very similar in design and implementation to the Nazi ideology that brought the world to the brink of destruction in the late 1930’s through the mid 1940’s. Smart bombs and drones can kill insurgents and destroy equipment, but it is powerless against the ideology that fuels the hatred that motivates the terrorism. In many cases the military action can generate an ideological backlash, even among neutrals who view the terrorist attacks with disgust. We end up losing more ground on the level of thoughts and attitudes than we gain in military victory.

Thought #2 – Hope may be stronger than fear in the long run, but fear is always more powerful in an immediate reaction to a national emergency. In the days following 9/11 there were far more doomsday scenarios given than could ever possibly be experienced. The stock market imploded. The FAA and the Airlines reacted and overreacted (I was a pilot during those horrible days – I know!) Fear ruled, although slowly hope won over all but the most paranoid individuals (who even now remain paranoid over doomsday scenarios).

Thought #3 – Faith, on the other hand, will always be able to overcome fear. Even in the immediate aftermath of the attack we heard individuals speak calmly and clearly about the reality of the situation and how people of faith could survive.

Thought #4 – An ideology may hold us in fear but a properly founded theology (image of God) and Christology (understanding of the nature of Jesus) will overcome that ideology. The book of Acts teaches us that an individual can change from being obsessed with a challenge to his belief system (the Pharisee Saul of Tarsus) to an individual who could totally and completely lay his life in the hands of God with no fear of losing his own life (the apostle Paul).

 

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I know I experienced so many emotions in the hours and days following those first few minutes watching those planes hit the towers. The past 10 years have helped me review some of those emotions and to see where I was misinformed, mistaken, or just flat out wrong – and sinful. I think I am a little more mature now, hopefully a little wiser. And most important, more Christian in my worldview.

 

Through his apocalyptic lens, the apostle John could see the end of time and his response was very simple – wait, and rest. God is in control. We, as his children, have but one responsibility: “be thou faithful unto death.” I read those words with a little more seriousness these days. John is not saying be faithful until you die (although, that is implied). He is saying “Be faithful even if it costs you your life.”

I have made up my mind that I want to live in the comfort of a faith in Christ Jesus, and not live in fear of an insane ideology over which I have no control.

And I pray my daughter never has to experience a 10 year anniversary of something so horrific in her life.

The Inspiration of the Bible

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As with so many other subjects that I dare to approach, I must begin by saying that I am truly an apprentice in the trade of biblical interpretation. I have earned my wings, so to speak, but I am far from a master. I can take off with the best of them, but my landings sometimes rattle my teeth.

With that caveat in mind I bravely sally forth thusly. To say that I am perplexed concerning the attitude of certain “Christian” leaders in regard to the inspiration of Scripture is to put my response mildly. Sometimes I am amused, sometimes I am frustrated, and sometimes I am deeply angered. What I would really appreciate is a straightforward statement from these authors and lecture-circuit speakers detailing exactly what they believe Scripture is, and how that view of Scripture informs their view of Jesus Christ.

Here are a few of the questions that I have regarding those who claim to have a “high” view of the inspiration of Scripture, yet through their writings and sermons demonstrate a very low view of that inspiration. If a text bears the name of a man who claims to be its author, how can you summarily dismiss that claim based on assumptions that you read back into that text? How can you posit an evolutionary development of an author’s writings when you dismiss certain writings claiming to be from that author, and especially in light of the fact that we do not have definite knowledge of the order in which those writings were produced? How can you so lightly dismiss the opinions and conclusions of scholars writing a mere century or so removed from the autographs and yet hold so unswervingly to the “assured results of scholarship” produced two millenia (or more) after the authors of the various biblical writings died?

I am enough of a scholar to know that our insight of the biblical texts amounts to a tea cup in the comprehensive ocean of all possible knowlege. It is the pinnacle of arrogance to suggest that we, in the 21st century, have a lock on the living and active Word of God. But I am a child of tradition enough to know that we believe in order that we may understand (to quote that fine theologian, Anselm).

To disbelieve is the first act of disobedience. And to minimize the power of the Word of God by suggesting its claims are false or somehow invalid in our advanced and supposedly more enlightened culture is the first act of disbelief. We cannot hear the blessings of Matthew 5 without listening to the judgments of Matthew 23. We cannot bask in the glow of 1 Corinthians 13 if we excise chapters 5-7 and the last half of chapter 14 (among the other “odious” sections of the letter). The promises of Revelation 19-22 are meaningless if we do not first contemplate the warnings of Revelation 1-3.

We don’t get to choose which portions of Scripture are inspired and which portions we conveniently get to ignore. This is especially true since we seem to be incapable of reading the text without inserting our own conservative, liberal, Republican, or Democrat biases back into the text. 

We either stand under the text as disciples of  the incarnate Christ or we stand over it as judges of human literature. The one position denied us is standing within the text as copy editors.

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