How we read the Bible speaks volumes about our demeanor towards culture. If I cannot think biblically about any reality or decision-making process I am making myself subservient to extra-biblical authorities. If I am incapable of commencing my thinking biblically I am just as capable of abandoning my Christian categories. It is the great compromise of our age that we hold on firmly to “God and Country” but fail to know what God requires of us who are called to think and speak as citizens of a heavenly country. We have allowed the presuppositions of pagans to guide the thinking of the pious. Our theory of knowledge is inescapably secular. We have retired our Sunday hats after church and replaced it with the hats of neutrality and unbelief. I have found that people’s passions run deep…for the wrong causes. In fact, they have so engaged in secular pieties that they have established social structures, hierarchies, right and wrong categories, stipulations, and judgment to systems and promises that show utter contempt for the God of the Bible. What guides your thinking of reality? What gives shape to your decision-making? The redeemed man is led by the self-attesting reality of God’s word. Begin and end with truth
When I was younger, fascination with how the world was going to end was an all-consuming passion. I read the books, marked the proof-texts, speculated alongside Bible prophecy “experts,” and proclaimed the Gospel that the “end is near.” Almost 20 years have gone by since I left that world. What fascinates me today is not so much the chronology of the end, but the joys of the present. God is doing a work in our midst. He is building awe among his creatures. And we must see the good he is doing around us, lest we miss his good gifts. Here is what I know: Fairy tales are good and noble. Giggles from children are beautiful, community life is sublime, the Church is motherly, and the “love of wife,” to quote Luther, is desirable. Obsession with the end robs us of the present joys. Your eschatology forms your theology of the present.
It is hard to read the story of the prodigal son and not be undone by the grief of the father and his jubilance as his son returns. Can you read that story and simply conclude: “Well, that young man certainly made a rational decision to come back home?” I doubt the common man stops there. He immerses in the agony and glory of this reconciliation story. It’s a kind of death and resurrection narrative. But our tendency is to see this experience as unique in the Bible. Everything else is propositional truth which serves the purpose of enlightening our minds and nothing else. What if, however, these propositions are meant to change our experiences? What if genealogies, temple tools, and descriptions of sacrificial rituals were meant to build us in truth and enhance our emotional taste buds to the entire meal of Scriptures? What if these “random” details were meant to make us more human and better friends and worshipers? What if Paul was right when he said, “All Scripture is profitable for training in righteousness?” Have we become selective in what is profitable and what is not? All texts shape us, even the ones we choose to overlook.
We must confess the truthfulness that evangelicalism has turned the Old Testament pages into a series of unconnected moralistic stories. This reminds me of a lecture delivered by R.C. Sproul one time where he asked for a copy of the Bible. A young college student threw a copy of the New Testament Gideon’s Pocket-Size Bible to him. Sproul looked at it and threw it right back and said, “I asked for a Bible, young man!” We have disassociated the Scriptures and treated it as a collection of unrelated stories. The reality, however, is that the Bible is a collection of unified stories made to build on one another with each story adding a more nuanced and elevated art form to the big picture. The Old Testament Scriptures are far more than moral lessons, it’s the very environment that makes the New Testament coherent. The presuppositions of the Gospels and Apostolic writings depend heavily on the assumptions of the Law and the Prophets. The Bible, to paraphrase Luther, “is alive, it speaks to me; it has feet, it runs after me; it has hands, it lays hold of me.” To categorically divide Old and New is to amputate the Scriptural intent to hold and illumine our hearts and minds.
Guest post by Pastor Duane Garner
One of the most popular criticisms made against Reformed Christians and pastors is that they put way too much emphasis on learning, reading and teaching and way too little emphasis on “real ministry”. Now “real ministry” is defined in a number of ways by these critics, but the allegation routinely leveled against us from many quarters of Christendom is “there is no problem too big for us to recommend a book for.”
Is there any merit to this charge, and if so, how should we answer it?
My first response is that I really wish it were true. I am afraid that the stereotype of the well-read studious Reformed Christian is nothing more than a gross caricature. There are a few men and women I know who might fit that description, but I fear that the reality is that only a fraction of people in the Reformed world really care about or make the time to pursue any kind of study outside of Sunday morning worship. It is obvious that for the most part, people are not reading, they are not making time for any extra pursuit of Biblical or theological knowledge and they are satisfied to drift along not growing or maturing in any significant way.
Compare our present situation to the previous generation of Reformed Christians. A couple of decades ago Reformed publishing houses were printing, and people were reading, thick heavy hardback volumes of theology, but that is simply no longer the case. Today we are doing good if we have skimmed a handful of books on the family and on developing a “Christian Worldview” and having done so, consider ourselves well-read. (more…)
Luke says that Jesus grew in wisdom and stature; Peter tells us to grow in grace and knowledge; Zaccheus shows us what to do if we have not yet grown enough to see Jesus as he passes nearby. We use whatever tools we have in order to improve our vision. Zaccheus had a tree, and you and I have minds, hearts, and appetites, bearing God’s image. Our children bear that image as well, so we train them to use the tools God gave them so they can distinguish truth from falsehood when they meet either. God has given them each a mind, a heart, a belly, a conscience, a will, an identity, a community, a church, and a family. We have God’s Word in our hands and God’s world at our fingertips, so we seek truth in both, and we place both within the reach of the ones God has given us.