Saturday, December 10, 2011

How to make me lose my lunch...and respect for you.

"Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth...ALL SCRIPTURE is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." 2 Tim. 3:15 & 3:16

That was Paul writing to his little buddy, Timmy, as Timmy became the pastor at his local church. Paul is telling Timmy that every bit of Scripture is "God-breathed." Which is a fancy way of saying that whoever happened to be writing at the time was somehow under the influence of the Holy Spirit.

Now, let's take a look at the way other writers of the New Testament felt about Paul's writings, shall we. (Unfortunately, for space & time's sake, I have to smoosh all of this next bit together. But feel free to read it all for yourself.)

"First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires (Ain't that the truth!)...So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. Bear in mind that our Lord's patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. He writes the same way in all his letters speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do other Scriptures, to their own destruction..." 2 Peter 3

Well, it would appear that even before the early church canonized what we now call the New Testament, the other Apostles already recognized that some of them, and certainly Paul, were writing divinely inspired Scripture. Interesting, don't you think?

I've been reading some stuff as of late, and hearing some things from others, that really tends to make me sick to my stomach. It's by people who call themselves Believers, and yet they complain & equivocate about what's in the bible. In particular, Paul seems to be everyone's favorite whipping boy. "That Paul was messed up," they'll say. Or, they will complain; "I don't like what he had to say about X,Y & Z." It's always something along these lines.

For the record, I am not talking about legitimate arguments and debates about actual theological issues. Those arguments are for the people who actually DO take the WHOLE bible seriously. Nor am I talking about wether or not someone is reading the bible in or out of a particular portion's context. I'm talking about wether or not you actually take the bible seriously at all, or wether you are just picking & choosing which bits seem convenient for you on any given day.

I get really frustrated by Fundies...and for lack of a better term; "Word-for-word Literalist, Far-Conservative" people, who treat the bible like a chunk of dead wood with which to bash others. They often dismember & dissect the bible like an object on a lab table. Then they cherry pick the verses that make themselves feel self-righteous.

But that's not what makes me lose my lunch and my respect for someone.

I get the most upset with the liberal "What-Everists," who look down at the bible as simply a man-made work, that can then have portions discarded when they become uncomfortable. A few days ago, I listened to a very influential idiot refer to the bible as "Holy Scripture," but then immediately turned around and spoke of how it was simply a man-constructed work, and that anything that was not to his liking should be ignored...because what ever those portions might be were simply the words of men.

I wanted to ask him why, in any way, shape or form, he then thought there was anything "Holy" about the supposed "Scriptures" he was reading.

Just yesterday, I was talking to a friend who I care deeply about. When we got close to talking about how one might wish to live a life pleasing to Jesus, he immediately jumped on to a very familiar bandwagon. He simply dismissed parts of the New Testament because they had been written by Paul. And as we all know, "Paul was messed up." (I lost a tremendous amount of respect for him at that moment.)

It was nothing I haven't heard before. However, what I would like to point out is that just because Paul...or Peter, Luke, Isaiah, Moses, John or Micah, was holding the pen, quill, chisel at the moment, don't blame them for what they wrote. Blame God. Yes, blame God for the parts you don't like. In fact, the next time someone whines about what they don't like about the bible, a better and more accurate complaint would be to say; "That Holy Spirit is messed up," OR "That breath of God needs some mouth wash." Because the blame for passages you don't happen to like land squarely at God's feet.

Agnostics, "Skeptics" and Atheists are one thing. They can poo-poo the bible all they want. That is their right. However, if you really and truly DO want to follow Jesus, then you have to take the bible seriously...because HE DID. (And please do not give me some stupid excuse along the lines of agreeing to take it serious only & up the book of Acts.)

The overwhelming amount of the time when I hear people whining about what's in the bible has to do with behavior and personal piety. We love the bits about how "God is love," and that he is willing to forgive anyone who asks. We can't get enough of those parts.

But then we come to the parts about how we are to be living sacrifices to Jesus. How Jesus expects us to be disciplined, and not hedonistic, in honor of him. We don't like those ones at all. "You mean I can't get drunk when ever I want? I have to love the unlovable? I have to keep my pants on? I can't drool over and reduce another human created in the image of God to an object of my lust?"

And then I'll hear; "But that's not fair. I was born this way! I was born loving to booze it up. I was born greedy for money & material objects. I was born wanting to get stoned. I was born horny for women, men, sheep, goats and all-of-the-above. It's not natural to be committed to only one person because I was born selfish. Science proves it!"

Buzzzzzzzzz! WRONG! You were born with a sinful nature! That's what science proves!

You don't have to like those passages. But don't pretend they are not there, or that they should not be taken seriously. Exactly how much disrespect do you want to show to Jesus? If you decide to pick & choose which parts of the bible are convenient for you, be sure to throw out the ones about Jesus becoming sin for us and volunteering his life as a ransom on that cross while you are at it.

Also, while you are at it, stop calling yourself a Christian. As much as I dislike that label because of all the negative baggage it now carries, it still essentially means "One who follows Christ." So if you are one that chooses to ignore the parts of Scripture you don't like, because they actually require you to give back to Jesus in honor of everything he did for you, start saying something like, "Well, I'm a little "Chri-Curious" on the weekends sometimes."

Quite often, the bible can drive me nuts. The fact is that there are plenty of portions of Scripture that I can't explain. I certainly know that we are prone to take things out of context. However, when you look at the big picture, and DO make an attempt to read it all in context, there is more than enough to satisfy the soul of a Believer. In fact, quite often I will look at some of the more tricky parts of Scripture and think that it must be more than man-made. Why? Because if it were all a man-made creation, those writers would have done some very serous editorializing to clean it up.

Every single "Hero" in the bible was messed up with major character flaws. In fact, one good argument for banning the bible from schools is that the book should be rated NC-17. (Try reading the "Song of Solomon" if you don't believe me.) There is rape, murder, incest, revenge, polygamy, lying, deceit, betrayal, and so on & on. In fact, the only "Good Guy" in the bible would appear to be God, who ultimately reveals himself in that crazy, homeless rabbi named Jesus. That crazy rabbi goes on to love those deceitful, cowardly, scum-bag followers of his so much that he gives his life away for them.

The fact is that the bible is brutally honest & blunt about the human condition, the sinful nature at work in all of us, and how a very, very holy God deals with all of it...and sometimes it is not all that pretty. However it is that very honestly that causes me to believe.

He was writing about the Scripture verses he sees people posting on Facebook. They are always cheery, pick-me-up style verses. He said that was great, and people should keep it up. But he wondered why people never posted the freaky verses from the bible...of which there are legion. But that made him think...

"The Bible is filled with verses you never see in those daily calendars with a Bible verse each day in it. Or on Christian coffee cups or t-shirts or memory verse cards. There are hundreds of very strange sounding, weird, sex descriptive, bizarre and even violent verses in the Bible. It shouldn't be a surprise as life is filled with weird, bizarre and all kinds of unusual things. The Bible captures life at different time periods in history and I love the honesty of the Bible. That is one of the things when I first was studying the Bible I was impressed with and made me have more confidence in it's inspiration. If it was soley a human document, we probably would have cleaned up all the stories to have nice endings and removed the weird sounding things. But I believe God gave us an accurate record of what was happening and left in the happy, encouraging parts as well as the bizarre, weird and not so happy ending parts."

I agree with him. The bible IS accurate in so far as what God chose to reveal to people, through people, about himself and this world in particular places, times and events. Just because parts of it make me, you or anyone else uncomfortable does not give you the right to ignore it or throw it out. If you do, you are not being faithful. Nor are you getting an accurate picture. Do not "Cherry Pick" the verses you like to beat people up. But then again, do not "Cherry Pick" the verses you do not like and throw them out just so you can go on with what ever suits you.

One thing I have seen over and over again...and I am often very guilty of this too. We love the idea of Jesus as our savior, but we very often HATE the idea of him as our Lord. We desperately want that "Get out of Hell" ticket. But the idea of submitting our lives to Jesus after that? Well...

It's just a thought

I'll end this post with a video of N.T. Wright. He has a very thoughtful approach to Scripture that I find very wise. Because of our sinful nature, we will often look at Scripture through our "Religious" eyeballs and come away with all sorts of bad ideas & theologies...wether it's "Dead wood," conservative, fundamentalist nonsense, or watered down, liberal, "What-Everist" nonsense. I think Wright hits just the right tone. (No pun intended.)



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