The Redemptive thoughts.

I've been reading heavily over my sabbatical.  All kinds of books.  All kinds of genres.  All kinds of authors with all kinds of perspectives.

Yesterday I just finished a book that was both enlivening and unnerving.  I consider myself a guy with   a fair bit of tolerance as it relates to perspectives on religion, doctrine, and theology.  I don't know if I'm a straight up latitudinalist, but I'm not the kind of guy who only reads what I believe and only hangs out with people who see life as I do.  I feel it's good to engage conversation with people who don't agree with me and don't see what I see so as to refine and sharpen my understanding of life and, more importantly, my sense of reality.  I derive my reality from my theology...I feel I need to state that.

Theology isn't just a set of beliefs for me, it's a lens of interpreatation through which I perceive.  I see everything around me through the ideas I have about God and the ideas, I believe, He has about me.  I derive these ideas as best I can from His Word.

Now I will readily admit, my interpretation of God's Word is subject to error.  I don't claim infallibility in my treatment of the text no matter how hard I try to honor its intent and content.  I can look back at years of my life where I truly believe I missed the meaning of particular Scriptures and lived out a faith according to that flawed hermeneutic.  Nothing I would consider heretical, but incomplete and incoherent for still dangerous.  When that happens and I become aware of it, I try as best I can to correct imbalances and seek to align myself with what I've come to see as a better take on the text which leads to a better expression of the gospel to the world around me.  This is not to say that I don't have incorrect interpretations of passages or parables or prophecies currently...I'm sure I do in ways that I'm not yet aware of, but I don't knowingly espouse things that I believe are not true to God's Word.  Ok, there's that.

So why I'm writing...

Like I said, I finished this book yesterday that basically was proposing a new way of looking at the Bible, reading the Bible, and interpreting the Bible.  Many of the chapters shared historical insights that were brand new to me...things that I believe can be backed by good research and solid scholorship.  Nuggets of truth that shed light on random stories in the Bible that before were good, but lacked the historical plot to do them justice.  I was mesmerized honestly with certain stories I thought I was familiar with that turned out to be so much richer and deeper in meaning than I ever imagined.  I gleened so much from the insight of this author into certain words or concepts or civilizations that I didn't know before.  I'm always grateful for good writers that uncover and discover nuances that I would have never seen or savored with a cursory reading of the Word.  The words opened up new worlds.  That is the power of words.

But there were so many leaps of logic that would send off alarms in my brain while reading this book.  Sometimes in the same paragraph where I learned a new truth that I will always hold dear.  That's the parallel peril with good writing for me.  I can get caught up in the artistry or the wording or the beauty of a metaphor while totally being unaware of a subtle suggestion that is bogus. That would happen to me from paragraph to paragraph.  Some chapters would be fine and dandy and I would be in total alignement with the author, others I would be sitting there wondering how you could make up such divergent doctrines and mix them with orthodoxy as I knew it.  Again, this is applauded in our world.  It is lauded when someone plays around with long held truths and comes up with a whole new take on them.  I'll admit, a certain part of me is fascinated as well, but sirens are tripped when assumptions are made that aren't tethered to truth, ideas that are interesting yet unfounded, ungrounded.  This particular author enjoys playing with prophets, tinkering with the Torah, dancing with the disciples, and swimming in the's easy to get sucked into the seduction of it all.  But the playfulness begins to grate me after a while...I noticed my spirit finding it almost repulsive the more flippant he was with faith as he spun his arguments and art into an understanding of the Bible that I found disturbing, mostly because I thought about the people that would read what he was saying as gospel truth when a good bit of it was malarky, some of it pure rubbish.

I'll just mention a discrepacy that I noticed that I'm hearing more and more lately from what I'll call modern theologians.  It's the idea that certain parts of the Bible are pieces of poetry or tales not meant to be taken literally but read for an overarching beauty God was trying to introduce.  It seemed that in this book whenever there was a miraculous story that the rational world would find proposterous he would turn it into clever storytelling that came out of a culture of beliefs being passed down through oral tradition.  His theory (theology) suggested that whether the stories actaully happened didn't matter really and that some of the stories probably didn't happen at all but were made up as they were passed down from one generation or another to convey a transcendent truth.  The hermeneutic is actaully called redemptive theology, a progressive understanding of Scripture whereby God is evolving as man evolves and truth is changing and adapting to culture as it becomes more and more enlightened.  His suggestion was to appreciate the Bible as a book written by fearfully human people just telling the story as they saw it, whether they saw it rightly or wrongly.  This is clever because it allows the reader to dismiss whatever he or she doesn't agree with as that might be simply that particular authors limited understanding and perspective at the time they find themselves in barbaric and archaic history.  How would they know any better?  Take it easy on grateful that they had the progressive idea that they did and were able to contribute the this ancient library of books called the Bible. (so inclusive)  You don't have to agree to appreciate the 'steps forward' they were making in their particular context. (so expansive)  They weren't as illiminated and enlightened as we are, so how could you blame them for making up things according to their limited logic. (so tolerant)  They just called it like they saw it...don't drag God into this (he literally said that).  Hmmmm.

It's strange to me that the same people that criticize the evangelical world of turning the Bible into principles have no problem turning miracles into parables.  Whenever this author would run across something that didn't make sense to our world's understanding of life, he would play the poetry card.  "This was a beautiful piece of poetry."  Really?  I was also blown away how he would rip apart theologians who proof text the Bible to death and rip words out of context all the while he would highjack a story out of a text, riff on it a little bit, and then move on to the next chapter where he would take a single word in a text and turn it into a world of thought.  It was both contradictory and hypocritical.

I will say that I didn't mind him riffing on a word in the Hebrew and where it's found elsewhere in the Scripture and coming to a particular conclusion based on this construction of thought.  But when he gives himself the right to do that and makes fun of others for doing that in the same book, I find it absurd.

I could go on, but I think I'll end with this.  I believe the Bible was written by humans.  But I believe these human were inspired by God, and not just inspired, but spoken to and superinteneded by the Holy Spirit as he moved uniquely in them to pen his heart.  This is a distinction from a group of clumsy dudes that just "spoke it as they saw it" and we're left to take and leave what we wish depending on how useful it is to us presently.  If the Bible is nothing more than human writings that were inspiring, but not truly inspired, then they aren't authoritative and absolute in their truth and are essentially stripped of their power.  I realize that they still need to be interpretted so we have to wrestle through that in concert with our community of faith over thousands of years as well as the community of faith we journey with in our local church.  We don't read Scripture to artistically create our own Sculpture.  It is not to be played with, danced with, or trifled with like just any old book filled with man's ideas about life that we get to arrange and rearrange like furniture in our faith.  Please tell me I'm not shifting sand interpreting the writings of shifting sand and calling this solid ground.  Good grief.

Well, there are my rants and reflections on this fine Friday morning.  Be careful who and what you're reading out there...and whatever you do, don't just "gather around you teachers that tell you what your itching ears wish to hear, who turn away from the truth and turn aside to myths." - 2 Timothy 4

Paul saw this coming because it was already happening in the 1st century.  It shouldn't surprise us that  it's still around in the 21st century.  Stay thirsty, my friends.

(To my children...if you ever read this someday...don't just go with what feels good.  Sometimes the stuff that doesn't make sense in the Bible is the truth and often times the stuff that hurts is the cure.  Don't confuse medicine and poison, no matter which one tastes better going down.  If it's medicine, I don't care how it tastes, it will repair you.  That's why in James it says, 'humbly accept the faithful Word which is able to save your soul.'  We are living in a world that is butchering the Bible in the name of progressive thought and cultural doesn't make it any less ignorant just because it's artistic.  Just a couples thoughts from your dear old dad...I love you.)


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