Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Bible: Starting Point or Grab Bag

There is a cartoon in Charles Schultz's Peanuts where Lucy comes across Linus paging through a Bible. "What are you doing?" she asks. "Looking for a Bible verse to support my preconceived notions," he replies. Too often this can be our approach to Scripture. But God calls us to start with beliefs based on Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16,17; 2:15; John 17:17). This is difficult to do. We all have ideas that we have been raised with or taught that we find difficult to question. There are also the general assumptions of our culture that we find hard to put aside. But Christianity is meaningless if it has nothing in it to challenge our own presuppositions. However, to undertake this there are serious fears that need to be overcome.

1. There is the fear that it must be left in the hands of the experts. But the Bible was written by ordinary people for ordinary people. There are things in it that boggle the mind, but they boggle every mind. In my opinion, there are an excess of technical terms used by experts that could be dispensed with, and though some of these may still need to be understood, they do not require great expertise. It is not an impossible task.

2. There is the fear that if we examine our faith, we may lose it or at least end up with a set of beliefs no church organization will accept. This is a real fear. But I believe that God will stand up to examination and that it is worth it to know what the truth is. I know there is a danger in examining our faith. But an unexamined faith will always be superficial.

3. If we attempt to figure things out for ourselves, we might lose some cherished belief. I have faced this many times. Sometimes to have the belief confirmed. and other times to find it will not stand up to examination. But I would rather have God's truth than stay in my comfort zone.

4. We may worry that we will go off on tangents or get caught up in bizarre ideas. This again is a real danger. We need to consider the message of Scripture as a whole and not go off based on some detail. We need to be familiar with the teachings of others, not as an unquestionable authority, but as something to compare our views with. And sometimes we need to honestly ask whether we alone have all the answers.

Often the concern is not just for ourselves. If we are leaders, it can be fear for the people we lead. We may be afraid to encourage people to think for themselves for fear they will get the wrong answers. But an unexamined faith is often a faith which collapses when challenged. I therefore feel it is worth the risk to encourage people to think their faith through. And we need to trust God with the results (Proverbs 3:5,6; Psalms 127:1,2; 37:3-6).    


  1. As we have discussed before, I am in favor of starting with Jesus and interpreting the rest of the scriptures through the image of God that we see in him. Keeps us away from conjuring up the image of Zeus.

    1. We have discussed this before. (I knew when I wrote this that you probably would not fully agree with it.) I am willing to start with Christ but I do not end there. If you want to go twenty five more rounds on this one we can, but I suspect we will end up pretty much where we started. I think we have covered the territory here pretty thoroughly.

  2. Start with the Alpha and end with the Omega is what I say. :)