I love Google Maps. One of the small features I appreciate is the “Re-center” option that appears after I have wandered all over the map looking ahead and around where I am going, becoming completely sidetracked as to where I am in relation to the best route I need to take. Any time I lose track of where I actually am on the map, I can hit “Re-center” and immediately be brought back on the map to where I currently am located. This is why we need to study how Jesus interpreted scripture. For thousands of years Christianity has wandered all over the theological map chasing rabbits that have taken us away from the journey God wants for us. But time and again Jesus re-centers the purpose and use of scripture.
One of my seminary professors taught me to think of God’s revelation down through history as three concentric circles that represent the various means in which God has revealed God’s self. The most inner circle is the personal revelation of God as Jesus. This is God Incarnate, that is to say God made flesh. The middle circle represents God’s revelation through all other stories, events, and persons as recorded in the Bible. The outer most circle would represent any other events in which one believes God disclosed God’s self throughout history that were not recorded in the Bible.
Christians can study any number of the same biblical passages and come up with numerous differing thoughts as to how to interpret each passage. But, generally speaking, there are only four methodological styles by which Christians interpret a scripture passage. This diagram illustrates those four basic styles of biblical interpretation. Continue reading “The Jesus Criterion #13 – The four horsemen of interpretation”
In high school I had good grades and did well academically. In college I, well, let’s just say the academics, not so good. The difference? It was not my study habits. They were essentially the same… and therein laid the problem. At a high school level I was able to overcome poor study habits and still make good grades. College was more difficult and required a higher degree of study but I continued to give it the ol’ high-school try. Two years after graduating college and working in the real world, I went to seminary full-time. I had matured (a bit) and was expecting seminary to be more difficult than college. So I improved my study habits and, in turn, my grades improved as well. Similarly, good biblical interpretation begins with your study habits.
Christianity is notorious for its past and current interpretations of scripture based on ill-conceived, and just plain sinful, means for the purpose of preserving human-minded things. Interpretations such as…
Where do we turn in our darkest moments? In this episode, Ivy talks with Aimee about how she turned to God for help, even when she wasn’t certain she belonged in church. Aimee talks openly about the long road to finding safety and acceptance after a turbulent childhood and unhappy marriage, the things she still struggles with spiritually, and how becoming a mother solidified her belief in God.
There is only one passage in the entire New Testament that references other books later canonized into our New Testament as already considered to be inspired scripture. The writer of 2 Peter refers to the letters “Paul wrote” as “other scriptures” (2 Peter 3:15b-16). 2 Peter was written around 90-110 C.E., approximately 30-40 years after Paul wrote the last of his letters. By this time, copies of Paul’s letters were being passed from house church to house church to be read as part of worship. Looked at from our current perspective where we have had the books of our Bible settled for some 1,600 years, this point may only evoke a polite nod. But how did the church of 2 Peter come to view Paul’s letters as being inspired? That is the question we want to ask this post.
Negotiators talk with subjects during crisis events with the goal of having the subject release their hostage, not commit suicide, or surrender peacefully from a barricaded position. If you have ever seen a movie or TV show that showed such a crisis, you might be led to believe the most important part of being a negotiator is knowing really insightful things to say that will fix their problems and convince the subject to end the crisis. But such crises require just the opposite. Trained law enforcement negotiators know it is active listening skills which lead to asking the subject the right questions that will be the greatest foundation to resolving the crisis safely for everyone.
In this episode, Ivy talks to Leo, a self-described “spiritual seeker.” Leo is a gay man who came of age in the 1960s. While he wondered if he would ever find acceptance in the Catholic church, he says he never doubted the love of God. He talks about how his spirituality has served as an important touchstone throughout his life and in his relationship with his husband of 36 years.
When the Early Church finalized the canon of scripture in the 4th century (i.e., identifying which books were inspired by God’s Holy Spirit), they were in essence pronouncing the list of books that were to be authoritative for the Church and in our lives. The final challenge to a healthy view of biblical inspiration we will examine is learning how to properly embrace the authority of scripture.
The previous posts showed the need to embrace a messy Bible, including its flaws, as a way to let go of our need for an orderly Bible. Clinging to an orderly Bible hinders how we need to differentiate between revelation and inspiration. And if you thought that was hard, well, sorry but that was only the unwinding-your-brain prerequisite so you would be prepared for the next challenge inspiration brings— to view it like a bank robbery…
In this episode of Stories from a Village, Ivy talks to Stacey, a life-long Christian raised in the United Methodist Church. Stacey reflects on the positive experiences she’s had in her church community and the strong Christian women who shaped her. But Ivy and Stacey also wrestle with some of the hard parts of being Christian, such as reconciling the existence of suffering with their religious beliefs. This episode was recorded in the fall of 2017.
In the previous post we continued our look at some of the complex and challenging aspects of biblical inspiration, noting its greatest challenge is differentiating revelation and inspiration to the point that we learn to accept the Bible is a holy mess. This post we focus on the resultant view when one defines inspiration as likened to revelation— the inerrancy of scripture.
Every night I prayed to die. And every morning I woke up: angry, depressed – hopeless. Little did I know through repeatedly opening my eyes, an involuntary and seemingly mundane act, salvation was rearing its persistent head.
If you do not understand the difference between the theological concepts of revelation and inspiration, then you could be causing yourself significant consequences in your daily spiritual life and church practice. Confusing the two can result in erroneous understanding of the Bible that ranges from feelings of despair to justifying unjust acts against others. And that is why this is one of the most important points being made in this series.
Most of us tend to pay little or no attention at the end of a movie when the closing credits begin to roll (unless it’s a Marvel superhero movie and we want our added scene). In fact, many people start to leave the theater as soon as they start. But have you ever stayed, read through all of the credits, and then wondered what some of those positions were?
In this episode of Stories from a Village, Ivy talks with Sonya about faith, art, politics, and self-acceptance. Sonya grew up in West Virginia and learned early-on that being a good Christian meant not doing bad things like smoking, swearing, or watching R-rated movies. Today, she’s a Christian who cusses a little (and sometimes maybe a lot) but she knows that God loves her just the way she is. You can find examples of her art at sonyalucasart.com
Our notion of an inspired Bible comes primarily from the Bible itself. The idea of God’s Spirit coming upon someone is seen throughout the Old Testament and, generally speaking, is categorized in one of three ways:
At some point in my life, I learned to dance with scripture— a give and take, a waltz in and around one another, moving forward and backward. I laugh and I cry and the text does too.
I’m not much of a dancer. For a long time, I was scared to ask the questions, I was scared to enter into the conversation. My moves were awkward and I feared what would happen if I overstepped. The dark words on the white page are to be feared, we’re told. If you don’t take them seriously enough they’ll bite you.
We believe that the Bible is a beautiful, God-inspired, complex, and challenging book.
From the “We Believe” statement on Stone Village Church’s web site (emphasis added)
Let’s say your favorite translation of the Bible is being re-published and you have been solicited to join a focus group regarding the new edition. You agree to participate in the focus group and thereafter you are sent of list of potential updated titles to be printed on the front of the Bible. The list includes the following: