- 1 year ago
You may be familiar with the prayer from Mark 9, “I believe. Help my unbelief.” The man was expressing his desire to overcome his lack of faith for a fuller and deeper conviction in Jesus. The prayer that follows this post is formed with those exact words and even with the same desired end, but with a significantly different meaning and means. The prayer I want us to pray makes the first sentence, rather than the second, the place of confession. And the second sentence, therefore, becomes one asking for increase rather than decrease. The first statement, not the second, is the place where transformation is needed. The second statement is what is to be honored, not regretted. I want us to pray for a diminished sense of belief and conviction and an increased amount of doubt and questioning. And I want us to do this for the same reason the man in Mark 9 prayed - to draw us nearer to Jesus… not our inherited, accepted, limited portrait of him.
Enough of that. Let me get on with it. A few quotes will be helpful:
John Keats, 19th century English poet, once wrote, “There is a need in contemporary spirituality to find ways of praying and engaging with God, ourselves, and one another that have room for simultaneous contradictions, the experience of opposite emotions. We need the sacredness of living in the tensions and to admit how unsacred, how disconnecting, and profane are the attempts at praying and living while surpressing half of the stuff that fascinates or plagues us…”
Kathleen Norris calls the phenomenon “sacred ambiguity.”
In talking about the different lenses we all use to interpret the Bible, Shane Hipps says, “An examination of our lens is not a process of changing the Bible, the world, or truth; it is a process of changing ourselves.”
I offer all of this to make a suggestion for a pathway to great freedom.
I have heard all my life people claiming to be “serious about the Bible.” This was usually in a polemic context which implied that people that saw things differently than them were not “serious about the Bible.” Churches split, people fight, names get called, labels get assigned. You know the drill. If you were “serious about the Bible” you would hold as strongly as I do to some certain truth, and you would be just as devoted to defending that truth from all compromises.
But I have come to a place where I have seen that doubting my convictions is a more respectful - or “serious” - way of treating the Bible than defending them.
I have observed within myself that I have too often been more devoted to my lens for interpreting the Bible than to the Word of God.
I am coming to see that “serious” commitment to Scripture looks less like a fierce defense of certain positions and more like a courageous openness to seeing it in fresh, new, challenging, and disruptive ways.
I say this because if I truly love and long for the Word of God to be alive in my life I can never confuse my understanding of the Bible with the Bible itself. To do so is the highest arrogance. ”My views = what the Bible says” is perhaps one of the greatest idolatries that has ripped apart the church and made Christians appear before an unbelieving world to be a petty and divisive religious sect arguing over issues no one else can possibly understand.
I am not saying there is no room for belief or conviction. I am not advocating for some flimsy, relativistic, privatized understanding of truth.
I am actually calling myself to a more rigorous commitment to Scripture than I ever had in my more “serious” days. I am asking myself to be so doggedly devoted to the Word that I constantly ask questions, doubt convictions, and allow others to challenge me with different views. If I love the Bible I must hold it tightly and hold my interpretations lightly. I must allow for contradiction, doubt, abiguity, and uncertainty.
I must not ever disrespect the Bible by thinking that my limited, sinful, arrogant, selfish mind can fully understand it truths and completely contain all its claims.
I must love the Bible enough to let it and others who are reading it differently than me disrupt my life.
I am not advocating for making the Bible whatever I want it to be, I am trying to get to a place where the Bible can make me more of what it wants me to be.
And… in the spirit of honestly about lenses… I am on this journey right now with the assumption (or lens) that Jesus and his words/life are the filter though which we read everything in there, and when an argument/conversation/contradiction appears, it will be his life and words that teach me which side to fall on.
Lets love the Bible enough to enjoy the “sacredness of living within the tensions.” I think this is a pathway to freedom. I think it is a pathway to greater unity. I think it is a pathway to discover the Jesus way.
So…. “I believe. Help my unbelief.”
- 1 year ago
"The most limited bible interpreter is the one who claims to have no lens for interpretation but simply reads what it says."
- 1 year ago
A post for the anonymous religious fellow as a response to his this-is-not-about-politics political message in my mailbox today.
I received in the mail today a word from the Lord on the only issue Christians are to use in determining who to vote for this year. Anonymous said,
"Why argue over taxes and immigration and the like while we stand aside and watch as Satan and his army storm by as we do nothing to stop him, but welcome him in. [sic] Where will you stand? Shall we vote for sin? This really becomes the question."
The issue, you ask, that is the same as Satan’s armies marching in?
"One of the things we must understand is that, taxes, Social Security, healthcare, green energy, immigrations, etc. are not moral issues. [sic] …But abortion, homosexuality, and same sex marriage are moral issues and absolutely sin."
And as a result of this logic Anonymous says,
"How could any Christian vote for those who support such?"
Anonymous’ not-so-veiled attempt to tell me who to and not to vote for seems to have a reductionistic and highly selective reading of Scripture.
A quick comparison:
- Homosexuality is prohibited by less than 10 verses in the Bible.
- The word for immigrant is found 92 times in the Old Testament alone, and most of these references are a call to care for the immigrant. Jesus makes welcoming immigrants a salvation issue (Mt 25:43).
- Jesus said nothing about homosexuality but did spend most of his days providing healthcare for the sick and diseased.
- The biblical account of the origin of all things (i.e. Creation), which I am certain Anonymous would defend, also celebrates the goodness of the earth and our role to care for it.
- There are over 2,000 passages that discuss wealth, poverty, and justice. Most of these are a call to God’s people to care for the vulnerable. The Bible repeated shows that God has preferential interest in the poor.
- Caring for the vulnerable, according to the brother of Jesus, is the heart of religion. Jesus Himself, again, made our treatment of the poor a salvation issue
- I am sorry to any non-Jesus-follower who has come to think that all Christians think that how tax codes get written, how immigrants are treated, and what happens to the planet are insignificant but preventing two men from marrying is core to our faith.
- All citizens from every religion (or lack thereof) need an expansive understanding of “moral issues.” Maybe since tax codes and immigration polices and energy laws are more complex than a “yes” or a “no” to a marriage contract, some want to act like they are “matters of opinion” rather than matters of morality. This is not true. The Bible has a lot to say about what immoral standards we have accepted, and they are likely speaking more loudly about how we are treating immigrants and the poor than the two women who want to commit to a life-long covenant to one another.
"Generations ago would never have stood by and watched the abominations we are witnessing."
Which generations are you referring to, exactly?
- The Christians that landed here and killed and stole from the indigenous tribes?
- The Founding Fathers who owned slaves?
- Those churchmen who fought against giving equal voice to women and actively supported racial segregation?
I am disappointed that a follower of Jesus could write this and that a church that carries the same name as my own tradition would willingly print this in its weekly mailing.
The article ended with (emphasis original): “Make your vote count for righteousness.”
On that point we agree. I just hope he can come to understand that righteousness according to Scripture is bigger than a few handpicked verses about one issue, and that there are many great Christians who will vote in different ways because they are doing just what he says… just in a more theologically robust way.
Some may ask why bother posting a response to Anonymous since he represents a simplistic view. I respond partially because I fear this way of thinking is not as uncommon as I would like for it to be. See Billy Graham’s recent full-page ad in the WSJ. More so, though, I respond as an effort to remind myself and others that the moral of voice of Scripture rests primarily on the side of the marginalized, oppressed, the poor, the alien, and widow, and the orphan. No single issue, even one of biblical import, should be allowed to turn the weighty matters of justice (Mt 23:23) into “matters of opinion.” Whether I am voting, speaking, spending, or acting it needs to, as Anonymous reminds me, “count for righteousness.”
This is from Rachel Held Evans blog. It is about wrestling deeply with Scripture as it comes to us, not as we would have it.
This way or reading the Bible resonates deeply with me. The limp I walk with is a result of many battles with values I had to betray in order to embrace a deeper fidelity.Source: rachelheldevans.com
- 1 year ago