Thursday, August 23, 2012

Which parts of the Bible do you ignore?

The Pixar animated movie "The Incredibles" made recently famous the line, spoken by the boy-Buddy-turned-evil-villain Syndrome:

"If everyone is super, nobody is."

It reminds me of the teacher I once heard say "Every one of our students is above average." If our teachers don't understand basic statistical truths, then what's the hope?

But recently this thought, or some generality of it, had me thinking about the Scriptures. Are all the Scriptures equally the words of Jesus? The battle over the Bible in my tradition was more or less won out by people who would say "yes, they are." Strict inerrantists would argue (or at least some have with me) that every verse in the Bible is equal to "the Word" and has equal impact and importance on our lives. This argument is made in at least a couple of ways:

  • Every reference to some part or form of Scripture in the Bible is unilaterally applied to the book as a whole, as it exists today. Some examples of this include 2 Timothy 3.16 (all Scripture is God-breathed...), where the word "Scripture" is literally "Writings" and which was written when only the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) was available. Or take Revelation 22.18-22, again written several centuries before the New Testament was collected into one volume, and seems to more clearly refer to just the "book" of Revelation itself. Or all of Psalm 119, which talks about the Law of the LORD, referring to at most the first 5 books of the Hebrew Bible, yet we often apply the verses to all of our Bible.
  • Mixing up the Word with our use of the religious phrase "the word." Jesus in John 1 is introduced as the eternal Word (logos) of God. There are some specific theological and philosophical reasons he does so, but since our pop Christian slang for the Bible is "the word" we've sometimes come to equate the two. I shouldn't be quite so cheeky, there are certainly places in the Bible that refer to the spoken word of God, but again, in context they don't apply to the whole collective book we have today, but to what God was speaking at the time.

Recently an acquaintance argued that the Sermon on the Mount had no application to foreign policy in the US, and that Jesus certainly never intended for us to "turn the other cheek" to a terrorist. Is this true? Can we choose to ignore what my friend started off saying was "the most elegant sermon ever preached" (something I agree with)? What other parts of the Bible can we dismiss by saying it doesn't apply to certain aspects of public or private life?

Every person I know has made a choice about which verses in the Bible are commands we need to follow and which ones are ignorable, for one reason or another. Which parts of the Bible do you ignore? And what's your reason for ignoring them?

Sunday, August 12, 2012

What are our idols?

My pastor preached on Sunday a really good sermon about worship. He challenged us to think about the  things we worship instead of God. I had a few things I thought we could add to the list:

  • Power. Most of us want to feel like we influence the world, like we can change it. And while we sometimes want to change it for the better, usually we want to change it for our own benefit. We want to manipulate the system so that we come out ahead. It's so easy to justify the use of power, thinking we're going to make a positive change. But Jesus said that real power was in humility, in emptying yourself. 
  • Status. Whether it's our fanatic working out, our desire for perfect houses/lawns/children/pets or our ambition to get ahead at work, we're usually very concerned about what others think about. We worship what other people think about us.

But I think the #1 thing the average middle or upper class USAmerican worships instead of God is comfort. We go out of our way to be comfortable, in our homes, in our communities, in our churches. Rarely are we willing to sacrifice something of comfort in order to seriously follow Jesus. We want the (perceived) comfort and safety of an easy life--no suffering, no pain, no difficulty. We've come to expect it, for ourselves and for our children.

But the call of Jesus--the call of worship--is the call to come and die, to paraphrase Bonhoeffer. It is the call to the cross, to pick it up and carry it, a rather inconvenient, uncomfortable thing. It is the call to forget status, to forego power, and to serve, no matter the cost.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Showing love

The Chick-Fil-A day on Wednesday, followed by the kiss-in yesterday--whew, boy, I'm glad both sides were able to effectively show their love for chicken! Dan Cathy answered a question accurately and well, then many who disagree with what he said (or thought he said) overreacted, then many who agreed with what he said (or thought he said) overreacted in response to the first overreaction.

It's been fun, challenging and disheartening to read all of the flapping about this plucky issue. (Sorry, couldn't resist...) All in all I'm still not sure what I believe about it, other than both (or multiple?) sides in this issue got many things wrong. But this post isn't really about CFA, it's about something I read as I perused the news. One blog I read ( got a response from someone at Biola, and there was a quote the responder said that I couldn't resist giving a little bit of a rant about.

In response to Turner's statement that a bunch of Christians heading to CFA last Wednesday may say a lot of things, but it doesn't say "I love you" to someone in the gay community, the responder disagreed, hinting that it might have been "tough love", and suggested, as his first alternative way of showing love to homosexuals, to "warmly invite them to church..."

I know a lot of people who love Jesus and love his community of saints, but still wouldn't see a warm invitation to church as the first way they think of to show love to people they disagree with. I know solid believers that wouldn't necessarily feel loved if THEY got invited to someone's church, warmly or not.

How about warmly invite them to dinner?

Warmly invite them to a round of golf?

To coffee?

To your kids' birthday party?

Surely there could have been a better way to show love than invite to church. Or to have headed to Chick-Fil-A.