The Jesus Criterion #12 – Studying the Bible 101

By Steve Flowers

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.

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Stories From A Village Podcast: Love Found Me

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.

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The Jesus Criterion #10 – And the 66 winners are…

By Steve Flowers 

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.

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The Jesus Criterion #9 – And here’s what the Bible reveals…

By Steve Flowers 

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.

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Stories From A Village Podcast: Who I Am Called To Be

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.

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The Jesus Criterion #8 – Authority of scripture is not a four-letter word

by Steve Flowers 

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.

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The Jesus Criterion #7 – Inspiration is like a bank robbery

by Steve Flowers

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…

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Stories From A Village Podcast: Seeking a resurrected life

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.

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The Jesus Criterion #6 – To err is human

by Steve Flowers

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.

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The Jesus Criterion #5 – The Bible is a holy mess

by Steve Flowers 

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.

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The Jesus Criterion #4 – That’s a wrap!

by Steve Flowers

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?

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Stories From A Village Podcast: I love Jesus but I cuss a little

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

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Dancing with Scripture

by Dominic Mejia

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.

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The Jesus Criterion #2 – Inspiration (the Bible kind)

by Steve Flowers

Previous Post: The Jesus Criterion #1 – Introduction

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:

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The Jesus Criterion #1 – Introduction

by Steve Flowers

God is the savior—known boldly and intimately in Jesus’ life, which shows us how to live and love.

From the “We Believe” statement on Stone Village Church’s web site

I have never forgotten what the shop manager told me several years ago after my vehicle had an oil change and was checked for routine maintenance. He reviewed the results of the check and highlighted that I would need new tires soon. That was not news, as I knew the life of the original tires was near an end. What left an impression on me was how he phrased the importance of tires. His talk went something like this:  Continue reading “The Jesus Criterion #1 – Introduction”