At the beginning of the year, in an effort to get my web meanderings in some kind of order, I decided (among other things) to focus on several “preacher-teachers” whose sermons resonate with where I am on my spiritual/human journey. Adam Hamilton was one of them. (also Nadia Bolz-Weber) I know I’ve mentioned Adam Hamilton numerous times here on this blog.
At the Church of the Resurrection website, there are archives of all his sermons from the present to yesteryear, along with sermon resources etc. At the gym yesterday, I used a version of the “eenie, meenie, miney, moe” method to choose which sermon to listen to. It was entitled “Making Sense of the Bible.” That is also the title of his newest book. He has gotten some slack about it because it takes a good hard “look-see” at what evangelicals hold near and dear; perhaps nearest and dearest….the inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture.
In his opinion, because of the enlightenment and several subsequent movements that have “dissed” scripture, fundamentalists pushed back in a Newtons Law kind of way…...for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. As a result, many evangelical denominations have moved scripture up to the top slot on their faith statements. I googled some well known evangelical churches and found that the Church of God, the Free Methodists and the Baptists all mention scripture FIRST in their faith statements. They mention it before they mention God. They mention it before they mention Jesus. They mention it before they mention the Holy Spirit. I’m sure there are other churches who stick to this hierarchy.
The Bible is not the word of God. Jesus is the Word of God. (In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. John 1:1) The Bible CONTAINS the word of God and when we read it, listen to it, pray it and sing it, God speaks to us through it. When we pay attention, God uses the Bible as an instrument of his speaking.
Hamilton suggested using three “buckets”or categories to sort scripture.
The first, and by far the largest, bucket holds the sections of the Bible we read and know beyond a doubt “fit God.” They fit the image of God revealed to us in Jesus. There is no clearer image...no closer representation, no truer benchmark than Jesus. This bucket is easy to fill and the verses contained within console, convict, comfort, caution and clarify. They edify, enlighten and educate. These verses, stories and instructions are timeless. They reveal the heart of the Father that is exactly the same heart Jesus showed us.
The second bucket holds the scriptures that are clearly for another time, culture or situation. Keith had shrimp last night at Red Lobster. Uh-oh….abomination. My blouse was a polyester cotton blend. Uh-oh...abomination. He was sporting a haircut (He does have a beard but he often trims it) A lot of the abominations had to do with cleanliness. There was no Purell water-less hand sanitizer. No antibiotics. No thermometers to make sure food reached a safe temperature to kill bacteria and other nasties. Some of the abominations were to set Israel apart from other nations. Some abominations and OT directives have spiritual implications.
The third bucket is the sticking point for many “God said it, I believe it, That settles it” Christians. It is for scriptures you just don’t know what to do with. Oh, some folks try to explain them away, spiritualize them, justify them. Others ignore them. They are verses that don’t match the character and nature of God revealed in Jesus. They do not match up to any of the Gospel stories….nor to the “summation of the law” that Jesus gave us about loving our God and loving our neighbor. The passages that no how, no way fit the “golden rule” verse in the Bible….
“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. Matthew 7:12.
Genocide, war, violence, stonings, beheadings, trickery. Everyone is familiar with those verses that just don’t make sense.
Aaaaaaaah….but that is picking and choosing scripture, no? But we all pick and choose. Even those who deny picking and choosing do, in fact, pick and choose. We don’t stone our rebellious teenagers. We don’t stone the folks who commit adultery. We allow remarried people to worship in our churches. We RE-marry couples in our churches that clearly do not fit the “biblical criteria” for divorce and remarriage. We cut our hair. We don’t cover our heads. Some of us get tattoos. We allow women to speak in church….some churches allow women to preach in church. We eat pork. We don’t banish menstruating women to the shed in the back yard. We all pick and choose.
I like this quote from Carl Gregg's blog
Second, we should not be surprised that everyone engages in “picking and choosing” because if you survey what the Bible has to say about, for example, anger, wealth, adultery, disobedient wives and children, marriage, and divorce it becomes clear that the Bible is simultaneously both contradictory and enormously demanding. In other words, it is essentially impossible to obey all that the Bible literally says because some parts of the Bible are mutually exclusive of other parts. Does this mean that we are free to choose willy-nilly which parts of the Bible to follow? To quote the apostle Paul’s repeated refrain from the epistle to the Romans, “By no means!” However, from the perspective of progressive Christianity, Jack Black as Jesus is right when he says, “If you pick and choose, why not choose love?”
Indeed….why not err on the side of love?