Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Mike: First Thoughts

Fair enough! What do I think about the Bible and God?

The Bible is a human/divine book. Christians generally believe Holy Spirit inspired and guided its various authors, so that whatever they produced may be used to turn us to God. Scripture's deepest purpose, therefore, is to help God form us into his kind of people. It is a tool in God's hands. Christians must take care never to confuse the tool with God, lest they turn the Bible into an idol.

Second, the Bible must be interpreted and applied. This implies the need for some standard or standards of interpretation. Some Christian groups look primarily to the teaching tradition of the Church. Others vest considerable authority in church structures, such as councils of bishops. Those in the free church tradition tend to give enormous weight to individual interpretation, tempered by interaction with other believers. Many prefer to attempt to interpret scripture in light of scripture.

Personally, I attempt to interpret all of scripture in light of what we know of Jesus. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are my primary texts, my canon within the canon. This enables me to disregard scriptures that clearly violate the teaching and spirit of Jesus. Stoning disobedient children, slaughtering conquered people, vengence in all its forms, and the like go by the wayside. They do not meet the Jesus test.

As for God, I find him best revealed in Jesus. In Jesus we see who God is and what he does, at least to the extent possible for mortals. The God revealed is one who takes a highly personal, love-driven interest in all creation, including us. He takes risks--selecting and shaping a group of former slaves into his people, Incarnation, entrusting his work in the world to all too fallible humans. He chooses to limit himself lest he overwhelm us and compel our allegiance, for he will settle for nothing less than our voluntary love.

The Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount, then, are best seen as God's vision for his people, individually and collectively. Grappling with them and, even more, trying to put them into practice push our spiritual development. Through them God says, "This is the kind of life I created you to have and the kind of life you can have. This is my kind of life. Join me in living it."

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