To start, let me give you an example of a guy that totally misses the point and is horribly guilty of what I talked about in the last post. (Be warned that while this guy is seriously preaching this, it’s painfully funny and also just plain painful. And no, that’s not Foxy.)
In a sense, my last post was a bit autobiographical, because I wanted to tell the process, the story, of how I get from there to here. And not just because I want to tell stories, but because I’ve found story to be far more important than I ever imagined. You see, I grew up seeing the Bible as a source of rules and principles to live by. After college, I learned that it’s far more than that–it’s literature that needs to be mined as such. I should understand genre and context and authorship to get the full scope of what each book of the Bible is trying to say.
The thing is, I don’t disagree with either of these ways of viewing the Bible: it does have rules and it is a work of literature. But neither was…enough. Because the Bible can’t be reduced to rules or literature. It is the narrative about our redeemer and how he has slowly revealed himself to his people and to the whole world. To say it differently, it’s a story. One big story with lots of small stories that all feed back into the one big story. Both views I had before always fell short in viewing the Bible as something to go to when I needed something, when I was trying to figure something out. I viewed the Bible selfishly and used it selfishly, childishly.
I’m not sure I’ve reached adulthood, but I am growing up to see the Bible as something way outside of and far bigger than me. And it doesn’t need me to interpret it or understand it or do anything to it. In all it’s weirdness and surprises, it’s exactly what it should be. And now my job as a disciple of Jesus is to view and read and use the Bible as the source that helps me understand by the Spirit who my King is, what he’s like, what he wants, what he did, what he said, what I am because of him, what he offers to a dying world.
And that’s the overriding idea I want to bring to the Bible and particularly so with this blog. I say overriding, because it’s not the only thing. Of these three levels (the sound bite, the whole letter/speech/book, and the entire story of God), which one is the most important for how we read the Bible and let it inform us today? Sorry, folks, but it’s all of them. The part informs the whole and the whole informs the part. It’s not about which way, but how to integrate the different approaches. And I want the story of God to hang over how I understand the components.
And why is that so hard? This is probably obvious, but it’s because the Bible is long, old, diverse, multicultural, multilingual, and just downright confusing. It’s so, so much easier to just know a verse or maybe even a chapter or an entire book (probably a shorter one, like, ya know, 3 John or something). And God is infinitely infinite, unfathomable in all that he is. And besides, it’s easy to focus so much on the Bible that we love the Bible itself instead of our God whom the Bible is all about.
To be frank, I think this is really, really hard. Court and I are constantly wrestling through how best to do this.
But I bring it up because we’ll use the Bible all the frickin’ time to help understand the things we’re talking about. Sometimes we’ll focus on a sentence or a paragraph, understanding how that fits into the greater whole. Other times we’ll come at it the other way, focusing on the whole stream of thought through the Bible without landing in a particular chapter or verse. Many people I’ve had contact with (in recent years even) would feel a little uneasy with that. But I hope we can demonstrate how this is not only workable, but good. And right. I never want us to be guilty of parading our One Big Theme Verse™ to explain anything and everything. We also never want to be accused of generalizing so much that nobody can tell why we believe what we believe. We invite you to interact with us as we do this, whichever way we go. We very well may need to be corrected. But I wanted to lay this out as a guiding principle before someone starts charging us with “where in the Bible does it say that?” or the such.
One final note: Reading the Oz books to find out how to lay yellow bricks is inane not just because it’s not what the book is about, but because the book never even attempts to help the reader understand the best way to do that. Sometimes the Bible just has nothing to say about buying an iPhone or what skinny jeans say about someone (hello, Jonas Brothers) or whether one should live in the suburbs. Sometimes we can take principles and inferences to help us work through issues that aren’t clearly laid out. But sometimes–get ready for it–sometimes, it’s just not there. And that’s okay. Sometimes we make decisions by faith knowing that there’s not a moral high ground. And trying to appeal to the Bible for these things not only gets one into dangerous waters (cuz you starting making laws out of things that aren’t laws), but you usually end up dragging others into your new land of faux laws. Those would be the burdens that get laid on others’ shoulders.
If you want some resources for this, here are some I highly recommend (and yes, I’ve actually read all of them):
According to Plan by Graeme Goldsworthy
The King Jesus Gospel by Scot McKnight
The Big Picture Story Bible by David Helm
My personal favorite for all ages: The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones
Now, some people think the Bible is a book of rules, telling you what you should and shouldn’t do. The Bible certainly does have some rules in it. They show you how life works best. But the Bible isn’t mainly about you and what you should be doing. It’s about God and what he has done.
Other people think the Bible is a book of heroes, showing you people you should copy. The Bible does have some heroes in it, but (as you’ll soon find out) most of the people in the Bible aren’t heroes at all. They make some big mistakes (sometimes on purpose), they get afraid and run away. At times, they’re downright mean.
No, the Bible isn’t a book of rules, or a book of heroes. The Bible is most of all a Story. It’s an adventure story about a young Hero who comes from a far country to win back his lost treasure. It’s a love story about a brave Prince who leaves his palace, his throne-everything-to rescues the ones he loves. It’s like the most wonderful of fairy tales that has come true in real life!
You see, the best thing about this Story is-it’s true.
There are lots of stories in the Bible, but all the stories are telling on Big Story. The Story of how God loves his children and comes to rescue them.
It takes the whole Bible to tell this Story. And at the center of the Story, there is a baby. Every story in the Bible whispers his name. He is like the missing piece in the puzzle-the piece that makes all the other pieces fit together, and suddenly you can see a beautiful picture.