Monday, February 27, 2006

Why so much about the Bible?

The reason I’ve been spending so much time focusing on the Bible is because a proper understanding of the Bible is an essential component of discovering what it means to be the Church and what God is calling us to be as a congregation.

One of the problems we must overcome is the assumption that we already know what the Bible says. I’ve been hearing, reading and studying the Bible virtually all my life (almost half a century now). And I’ve been studying the Bible and learning about it “professionally” for more than 30 years. I even teach the Bible at the University level.

Yet I find myself occasionally discovering that “what I had always thought” about the Bible was inaccurate or in some cases just downright incorrect.

For many that will be a shocking statement. But would you allow a surgeon to cut open your chest who hasn’t radically changed his approach to heart surgery since 1976? Or even 2001? He still believes that the heart is the organ that pumps blood throughout the body. He still sees blockage of the coronary arteries as a threat to the health of the heart and the entire body. He still believes that some serious cases can only be resolved with a heart transplant. But his procedures have changed dramatically. And in some cases, his understanding of the heart and how it functions has changed significantly.

If I, a “professional” student of the Bible, have changed my understanding of certain passages of the Bible over the years, wouldn’t it seem likely that an “amateur” student of the Bible would also need to be adjusting her understanding of Scripture as archaeology and other disciplines have “uncovered” new information?

Imagine a patient who goes to the hospital for open-heart surgery. He quizzes the surgeon about the procedure. But what he hears is different than what had been done to his father ten years earlier. Would it make sense for him to insist that the surgeon use exactly the same procedure that was used on his father? Could you imagine him saying, “If it was good enough for my father, it’s good enough for me”?

Some will object at this point that the analogy breaks down. The Bible is about truth, and truth doesn’t change. Surgery is about science, and science is always advancing.

But science is as much about the truth as is the Bible. Science is constantly trying to refine its understanding of the truth. The human body didn’t change. Our understanding of it just got better.

So it is with the Bible. The truth of the Bible doesn’t change, but our understanding of it is constantly improving. And because the truth of the Bible is timeless, that truth has to be applied in fresh ways as culture changes.

Now here’s an interesting observation. When my understanding of the Bible has changed, it was almost always started by reading something other than the Bible. This shouldn’t be surprising. If we keep reading with our same assumptions and preconceptions, we are always going to see the same thing. But when someone says, “Hey, look at it this way, it makes more sense,” we can read it with “fresh eyes” and see things we never noticed before.

Sometimes we find this new “view” so obvious that we wonder why we never saw it before. (This is not unlike what happens when you buy a new car and start to notice how many other people have suddenly started driving the same model.)

So be prepared to hear, “Hey, look at it this way, it makes more sense.” And don’t feel threatened that we are tampering with the timeless truth of the Bible. Allow yourself to read the Bible with “fresh eyes” and see if it does, in fact, make more sense.

Pastor Rod

“Helping you become the person God created you to be”

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