It’s possible I might have come on to something. A few weeks ago, an idea hit me pretty strongly. It might simply be some bad pizza from the night before, or I might be on to something. So I’m simply using this as a place to think through some thoughts, a kind of journal, if you will.
A few months ago, I had already written on the problem of our fear-driven biblical interpretation. Not healthy fear, as in reverence for the Lord, but a fear that the Bible really doesn’t fit the paradigm for which many of us argue. But I want to talk about another fear.
What’s that fear. I’m calling it the fear of God’s “earthiness”. Continue reading
Following the Protestant Reformation of the 16th-century, we evangelicals have been given an important heritage. Many will be aware of the five of sola’s:
- Sola Scriptura (by Scripture alone)
- Sola fide (by faith alone)
- Sola gratia (by grace alone)
- Solo Christos (Christ alone)
- Soli Deo gloria (Glory to God alone)
These were, no doubt, important foundation stones in the midst of some rather nasty things taking place in the Roman Catholic Church of the west in those days. Martin Luther also championed a very important phrase, semper reformanda, or in longer fashion, Ecclesia semper reformanda est. This Latin is best translated as, ‘the church must always be reforming.’
That’s our heritage as Protestant-evangelicals, and I recognise it as a very healthy and biblical heritage to pass on to us.
But this would be my bone to pick with some evangelicals.
While, in the vein of our Reformation fathers, we might give lip-service to the ever popular phrase of semper reformanda, I think some might only accept this bedrock of an expression in one important area of our lives rather than two. Continue reading
In his most recent post, Andrew Perriman summarises his very challenging perspective on understanding the New Testament, theology, the fall of western Christendom, and what this all means for the church today. He gives 3 summary points:
- that the main narrative trajectory of the New Testament lands at God’s judgment of the world of Greek-Roman paganism and the inauguration of a new age in which Christ is confessed as Lord by the nations;
- that that new age of European Christendom is now being brought to an end by the combined forces of rationalism and pluralism, much as the age of second temple Judaism was brought to an end by the forces of empire;
- that one of the moves that the church has to make in response to the current crisis is to recover a sense of the historical dynamic of the New Testament in relation to Israel’s story and to reconsider how that dynamic gives impetus to the church today.
He goes on to share how this all played out in moving from what the text actually was in its historical context and what it became in later centuries:
Understanding the Bible is not always easy. Yeah, you noticed that already. Good!
Of course, I would say, as well as many of our fathers and mothers of the faith, that the essentials concerning salvation and the foundational beliefs of Christianity are quite discernible to those who faithfully read and study the Scriptures (ala 2 Tim 3:14-17). But it’s not always so easy as opening up the Bible, reading it and then coming to a well-formed biblical theology.
Thus, at times, we need helpful resources – from theologians, even scholarly theologians. Of course, we have to want to dive into other helpful resources. I’d say it is important for us all, if not on a daily or weekly basis, then at least some kind of ongoing basis. Snacking is ok, but there are times when we need full meals. Sipping wine is ok, but there are times when we need to drink the full glass down to the dregs.
And this calls for us to engage with other resources outside the simple (but good) approach of devotional reading – ‘God, speak to me from this text.’
So I list a few of my favourite books on understanding the Bible. Most of them are not a step by step of how to do hermeneutics, the science (or art!) of interpreting, understanding and applying the biblical text. But rather these books are helpful in giving a bigger picture for understanding the Bible.
I list 5 of them: Continue reading
Recently, I was involved in a discussion particularly on how we are to apply the Bible’s teaching to our lives today. This is a part of what theologians identify as hermeneutics – how to interpret, understand and apply the Bible’s teachings.
The discussion was launched in the midst of a statement that went like this:
However, what I have been taught and have believed all of my life is that the Bible is God’s book for the Church of all generations. What He said back then in the NT is generally as applicable for us today as it was for the churches that were being addressed at that time.
I would say that this isn’t a bad general statement overall, but it is general (even with that word being used in the statement above), one that probably needs some qualifications or better explanations. Continue reading