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Monday, August 27, 2007

Living Word

[I am intentionally vague in my reference to which church this is because I want to critique more the perspective than the person]

Lindsay and I attended a worship service this past Sunday morning, and I was near the verge of 1) standing up and leaving, or 2) standing up and verbally disagreeing with the pastor. It was painful, it was awkward and it was not only poor theology but also poor argumentation, which in itself is problematic in a sermon; should sermons be arguments? It felt as though I was sitting in a lecture than a worship service.

Their fall series was "Answering Your Friends (implied non-Christians) Toughest Questions." And the final question of the series was "How do we know the Bible is the Word of God?"

When I first sat in the pew and saw the sermon title, I knew I was in for it. I had stepped out of my denominational bounds to see what this other church was doing, and I was immediately aware of their different theological loci. More problematic was the question, I have never had my normal friends ask me "How do we know the Bible is the Word of God?" The more appropriate starting point is "How do we know that the Bible is authentic/reliable/true?"

But what the pastor sought to do was to preach defensively about the New Testaments historical accuracy. He totalled ignored the Old Testament, never once bringing it into the conversation. Plus he ignored interesting passages such as Paul saying, "It is not the Lord who says this but I." What do we do with that? These make the question "What is the Word of God?" much meatier, interesting and faith-forming.

I was immediately reminded me of one of my very first seminary classes in which the professor asked us burgeoning scholars "what is the Word of God?" After an hour of hands popping up and tongues wagging, we felt unsettled; as we should.

Lost in this defensive sermon was the beauty of "the Word of God," which is that the Word is more than written document, it is Jesus Christ himself. The Word is alive and the Scriptures attest to Him, he is not subject to the written word, but the written word (just as the spoken word) is subject to Him.

I left the service sadden because while the pastor was seeking to bring reverence to Scripture, I felt as though he took the beauty out of the Bible. The fact is the tension of God's Word written by human hands is beautiful. That is what makes the written word alive; it mirrors the hypostatic union of Jesus Christ.

Hidden deep in the service, which if you dozed off you would have missed, was an intriguing line about making the Bible relevant: "We don't need to breath life into the Bible, but the Bible needs to breath life into us." These are the things of beauty that make me wake up in the morning to reread the written word in order that I may discover the new way the Word of God is speaking to me.


Don said...

good word!

thehbs said...

Praise God for your insight, Wes. You're right on. I have started leading a Men's Bible study at the church, and, thank the Lord, they seem be approaching the Word of God in your manner. I hope you find your church to be this way.

Erik said...

Isn't it incredible that sometimes the very people who want to hold Scripture most highly, end up taking the very beauty of it and creating nothing more than an ornate idol? Its when this happens that the beauty of Scripture, as you say, is destroyed, and the deadness of idolatry, rather than the vibrancy of faith in the living God who still speaks, is what comes forth.

jes said...

1st student: "Let me help a brother out. What Mr. *** really means to say about the Word of God is..." of my most memorable PTS moments, which in fact came from the class you mention.

jlee said...

I knew that that the "let me help a brother out" quote would come out from your post. I was in that class too and I remember feeling very uneasy after that session. I knew that Princeton would challenge my understanding of Scripture but I didn't realize just how helpful wrestling with my understanding of the phrase "Word of God" would change in a few short years (for the better).

Don said...

Isn't it funny how we were all in that class together?! I don't know about you all, but had I known ahead of time, what the class was REALLY about, I probably would have taken something else - but I'm SO glad I didn't.

That line still cracks me up!

Beloved Spear said...

Nicely described...I've struggled to maintain silence in sermons myself.

Anonymous said...

If YOU have never asked YOURSELF how you know that the bible is the word of god, then your a going off of blind faith, and have no right to call into question what anyone else is saying. All of this bullshit about god leading people to faith turns my stomach.

wes said...

Not sure how to respond to your post. Are you insinuating from my comments that I personally have never wrestled with the Bible's relation to God's Word? Or are you making a generic comment to the "you's" out there. If it is the first, then I think you have misread the point of my post.

Also your final sentence, about God leading people to is unfortunate that such a belief upsets you. But that is basically the core of Reformed Theology, which humbly acknowledges the awesome power of God and our desperate need for Him.

I am constantly reminded of Paul's words, "Why do I do the things I know I should not, and not do the things I know I should?"

I agree that on the surface that sounds like a "stomach turning" bunch of bullshit, because it seems counter to everything I am told about myself and my own ability to rationalize and reason and understand things so long as I "keep at it."

But as I continue to wrestle with the concept I can see how deeply true it is.

This perspective relies on much more than "blind faith." It relies on a faith that is able to see much deeper than our surface, self-indulgant, "enlightened" culture has ever shown us.

My apologies if I misunderstood your statement, as I am somewhat confused as to who/what you were so dramatically reacting to.


PS-I appreciate your comments, but would ask that you post some identifying marker (name, nickname, etc.) in order to keep civilized discussion on here.

orvis weighted nymph said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
orvis weighted nymph said...

P.P.S I did the math a while ago, Noah would have had to load about 2 thousand species every second to get ready in the year alloted by god.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
orvis weighted nymph said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

[Posted by Overweighted Nymph earlier today, I deleted to remove the email address at ON's request]

Wes, what turns my stomach is stupidity and ignorance. I am not saying that you are completely stupid or ignorant, just in certain fields. But I am insinuating, not that you have never questioned the bible, but that you have never questioned it soundly enough. Think for a moment. Water into wine? Adam and Eve? NOAH'S ARK?? It's strange to me how some people could embrace these fairy tales in the way that you do. And yes I was talking to the generic "you's" out there, there happens to be a good number of them, you included.

If you can give me ANY proof at all that the stories you claim to be true actually are, then I will drop my atheistic beliefs and convert the very next day.

wes said...

[Also from Overweighted Nymph, in response to a deleted post--my apologies for these deletes and edits, but I wanted to get this back into the appropriate order and remove an unconstructive, attacking "anonymous" post]

Who are you? How do you presume to know who is going to heaven or hell? How do you know that I will be punished? How do you know that there is even a god to punish me in the first place? You don't know, you just pretty sure, just like me. However I base my beliefs on my observations of the world. For instance, evolution is supported by the fact that chimpanzies use spears to hunt, the use currencies to buy food tools and sex, and they even have basic forms of governments. Your beliefs are based on what people who lived thousands of years ago wrote in books that have been altered almost beyond recognition from the time they were written to the time you read them.

You are ignorant because you ignore all the facts of modern day studies. You are stupid because you think yelling at me and telling me that I'm going to hell will champion your cause.

Wes, to answer your question, this is what I was so 'dramatically reacting to'. People who are just soooo sure that they are right that they don't even need to think about it. They just know, that's all. If this does not describe you, my apologies for my earlier comments, the whole "god talks to me" thing just threw me off. Spiritual people talk to god. But god only talks to crazy people, know what I mean?

orvis weighted nymph said...

It's actually orvis wighted nymph, it's a fly used in flyfishing.

wes said...

Oops! As my friends will attest, my spelling is horrible. Orvis weighted nymph is far cooler than overweighted nymph, ha.

Anonymous said...

Why did you take off my comment, Wes? I was trying to help you.