I am taking a break from the current "series" about mimetic rivalry and Girardian thought. I am not finished. What remains to be said is the best part. The Bible is a progressive expose' of the scapegoating mechanism...and Jesus and the crucifixion is the crowning illumination of the whole process. His death was identical to the many, many victims of scapegoating through the ages...yet, totally unique for many reasons, not the least of which, he was the fullness of the Godhead in bodily form. He came to set creation free. He is the head of the body. He is the savior of the world. More on that to come...
I closed my last post with some musings about the Bible...how we filter the Bible through our own prejudices and beliefs...sometimes ignoring all other possible interpretations but the one we are the most comfortable with.
What prompted me to ponder this in more detail? I happened upon two writings....one last night before bed, the other during my early morning surfing session which began at 5 am.
On my nightstand is a book...a random book I took from the bookshelf a while back to leaf through...a book obtained years ago through a Christian book club (because I was late in sending back my "no thanks, I don't want this month's selection") Actually it was a series of three books by . Two are still here in the living room bookcase. The third book..."How Can I Find You God?" by has been propped against the alarm clock on our nightstand for the past few months...blocking the (too bright) glow of the numbers.
Well, last night, even though I was yawning and ready to go to sleep, I picked up the book, checked out the table of contents...turned to the chapter on the Holy Spirit and read what she had to say. I enjoyed the retelling of her journey from a disbelief in the gift of tongues...to actually speaking in tongues herself. She wrote from a conservative Christian perspective....to a conservative Christian audience. Not a charismatic audience because she was well aware her views on the Holy Spirit might not be well received. In urging her readers to consider that the Baptism of the Holy Spirit is still available today (duh) and that the gift of tongues did not go out with the apostles, she said this:
Now divorce yourself from man-made doctrines, forget all the stock dismissals, negations, explanations and assumptions you've ever heard. Bring your mind clear and clean to the Gospels and listen with your own ears to what they say.
I pondered that awhile...
Then, this morning...while following links from the facebook page of Clyde Pilkington Jr, I came upon a collection of articles from the Bible Students Notebook. I read quite a few of the writings there...snipping quotes to save to my already bulging quote file (because one can never have too many quotes). The perspective of most of the articles, many of them from writers of yesteryear, was a bit more conservative than how I see things but still so much to be gleaned from reading them. One in particular caught my attention because, it expressed the same thoughts (in much more detail) as the snippet I read last night.
"Bring your mind, clear and clean, to the Gospels and listen with your own ears to what they say."
The article was written by Ross Purdy and was entitled "Enjoy the Learning Process That Lasts a Lifetime." In the article, he discusses the way to interpret scripture in spite of our tendency to filter it through our existing belief system. Lengthy excerpts follow:
Different approaches (dispensational, covenant, progressive dispensational) can often come to different interpretations because they are forced there by deductions they have already made with respect to other interpretations on other passages. Much theology is then biased and instead of letting Scripture speak for itself, an interpretation is forced on it.
..... people assume a number of things before even having studied something out. I think it is a big mistake to not test those assumptions in the first place and at the very least, leave them open to questioning and discussion. In other words, to really engage Scripture honestly, we have to remain open to modifying our theology and understanding.
So...in other words we go to scripture with preconceived ideas...not with a "clear and clean" mindset and determine what it says based on our pre-existing beliefs. We do not remain open to modifying our theology and understanding. This applies to all points on the liberal/conservative, progressive/fundamentalist, believer/nonbeliever spectrum. "So where do we start?" he asks.
...with something that at least appears consistent. Dispensational theology qualifies. But we must be active and dynamic in study. We must allow our position to be challenged. We must never take the position that “I have the truth which must be guarded at all costs.” No man or organization can claim such infallibility. We rather trust in the written Word of God against which we can study and compare all things like Bereans. We lean on other saints who edify us. We test what we learn in day to day living by practicing the principles of God’s Word. These things will keep us closer to God and safer than any doctrinal statement or movement or denomination claiming to have recovered the truth.
Then the author asks another question....
What does this mean for you?
Rather than quote the article word for word...paragraph by paragraph, I've put his thoughts in bulleted form. Please note, these are the thoughts of the author rearranged a bit into guidelines for studying scripture and forming beliefs...these are not my original ideas, although I do agree with what he has to say.
- We all have to start somewhere and the best way to do that is to borrow someone else’s interpretation.
- Take a position and study it. We use that as a starting point from which to learn and explore.
- It should never ever be a resting spot beyond which we never venture.
- Challenge it yourself in light of what you read and learn.
- Take up different and opposite positions and try to defend them as if you held them whether you do or not. That is the best way to see their merits.
- Ask others to challenge it and reflect.
- Ask questions of those you respect and see how it affects your understanding.
- Always find out from the folks who hold a position as to what they believe. Never take the word of someone who is against a certain interpretation as to what people actually believe who hold the position.
In other words....for example....
- Never trust a Calvinist to tell you what an Arminian believes and vice-versa.
- Some things will always be confusing in Scripture, but over years of study, some of them clear up. Sometimes a new interpretation clears it up.
- Leave it sit awhile on the shelf and when you come across something in your study that reminds you of it again, revisit it and study a little more and put it back on the shelf again.
- Allowing our knowledge and understanding to be challenged allows us to go back to the Word and learn, explore more, and grow in God’s grace.
- Be responsible yourself for what you believe. It is better to have very little you have mined for yourself than much borrowed from someone else.
- Don’t grasp any theological interpretation or teaching so tight that you can’t let go of it when you learn that it is wrong.
- What is scary is that sometimes this method challenges big chunks of your own theology and you have to toss it all out. You feel like you have to start all over again and it is going to be painful! It might happen several times in your life! But the joy is in learning and exploring and living and knowing we are not trapped in something that never lets us move beyond it.
- Have no fear!
- Even if one does go really wrong on some doctrine, I am convinced that living it out and continued study of the Word and the love of the saints will be very, very effective in correcting the error.
- Please enjoy the opportunity to learn and teach. Enjoy the learning process which lasts a lifetime.