Friday, June 20, 2014
The Vulnerable Bible (Devotional) By Ron Shackelford
Why are there so many divisions in Christendom? Pride is one reason. Take the use of Scripture. Until we reach a place of humility, in heart and mind, the vulnerable Bible will be misused.
For example, there is a difference between being serious and being literal about the Scriptures. At times being literal results in not taking the text seriously enough, avoiding its real impact or wider significance. In these cases, literalism is the lowest and least level of meaning, as opposed to looking at alternative meanings. For example, Jesus knew He would temporarily perplex some listeners when speaking in parables, but serious seekers eventually come to the truth.
Gerald May says spirituality is not to encourage willfulness but willingness. Spirituality creates a willingness to let go of a personal need to be first. “The servant of all is willing to be last,” Jesus said. Spirituality creates a willingness to let go of the need to be right or absolute. “Does the maker of the heavens need defenders?” asked the Psalmist. Spirituality creates a willingness to let go of the need to be superior to other people. That game is over when you reach the state of “not my will but Thine be done.” Without humility of heart and head, the Bible is vulnerable to great misuse.
Robert Rohr says fundamentalism misses the fundamental. He puts it this way: “Willful people use Scripture literally when it serves their purposes, and use it figuratively when it gets in the way of their cultural biases. Willing people let the Scriptures change them instead of using them to change others.”
If I'm looking for a new church home, I look first at Reformed theology churches. Why? Because I deem them the most Biblically based. In the local church with the common marquee, “The So and So Bible Church,” literalism often reigns. Some Bible verses are meant to be taken literally, others figuratively. The goal is to be serious and scrutinizing, not literal and lazy. God's goal is transformation of self from our own worldly bias, not transformation of others.
The sword of the Spirit, to non-believers obtuse,
Yet for sincere students, never dulls with use.
For Truth seekers, 'tis surely enough
To see things real, and bare to the buff.
With broken hope for a pillow at night
Here the battle for mind and soul is won
After blackness of night, comes glorious sun.
With broken hope for a pillow at night
My battles wage unseen by eyes,
Where soul truth won becomes the might,
To even cast out my very own lies. R.S.
(Adapted from Robert Lewis Stevenson, If This Were Faith)
Transformative Bible study means hearing a variety of teachers and contradictory perspectives. If you can't stand the heat in the kitchen, don't expect a nutritional meal to emerge. We must address the tension of two apparently opposing perspectives. But rushing to reach a conclusion that neither science nor Christendom has clearly landed upon reflects spiritual immaturity. Are you afraid of ambiguity? Can you stay calm under the pressure of change, complexity, or new issues raised by science or a changing world?
Here's my checklist to be more than “Biblically correct.” I want emotional “correctness:” the ability to be mindful about my built-in biases. I want an intellectual “correctness” that monitors for inconsistency of interpretation methods and justifies any apparent discrepancies. I must gather data from all points of view, including science and other traditions, and pray for the Spirit to lift me above built-in conditioning and bias.
The Devil knows the Bible. Is your view absolute? He loves agents of divisiveness, conscious or unconscious.
Decision for the Day To apply my “correctness” checklist to living out the Bible and its verses requiring mature choices.
Positive Thought Jesus called us to unity in Him, not total agreement. Unity in Him means interactions guided by love first.
About the Author: Ron Shackelford is a pastor (honorably retired) and licensed marriage and family therapist. He is the author of Married to an Opposite: Making Personality Differences Work For You.