Bible, Volume 3?

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So, I really liked parts 1 and 2 (The Old and New Testaments), but do you think it’s time to for another installment?  Should we reopen the canon?

The canon is the collection of writings that have come to be known as The Bible. Hundreds and hundreds of years ago we assembled it carefully and declared it sufficient. But then again, that was before cloning. Maybe we could use some instruction on that.

It was before technology of any sort, really. It was before talk of global warming, or gay marriage, or reality television. Should we commission a supplemental volume to clarify what Jesus wants us to do about these things?

Who would decide what goes in to a Bible Part III? Would scholars? Pastors? You or me?Would we have a 1-800 call in voting system? I wonder. Would we come to blows over what constitutes The Word of God? Probably.

Come to think of it, we already do that with the Bible we have. Okay then. No Bible Part 3.  No point in adding to the “canon fodder”. And it’s a tenet of Christianity that the Bible contains everything necessary for salvation. That’s comforting, but here’s a thought: If God had intended the Bible to be the last word on everything — why have libraries?

Sure, the Bible may be the most important book on the shelf, but that doesn’t mean you ignore the whole library around you, right? No, I think God inspires people even today, in a variety of ways.  The written word, for example, has the power to enlighten and instruct us in supplemental ways even beyond the life-giving pages of The Bible.

Someone, right now, may be writing words on a page that will one day convey a life-changing insight, one that may cause you or I to revise even the most die-hard opinions we’ve had about how we read The Bible.  I’m going to stay open to that possibility, because although God may not change, our understanding of God continues to unfold and expand.

I firmly believe that The Good Book points me to a relationship with God, through Christ. It shows me what salvation means. It welcomes me into a life of Kingdom-living. It is the foundation by which I try to live my life.

But just the same…

When it comes to something like cloning, or global warming, or gay marriage…

I can’t help but think that God

is still speaking volumes.

Mitch

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originally posted in 2014

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It’s Hip To Be Square

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It’s not just some fad.  It’s not just a Huey Lewis song either.  But let me tell you…

Square is where it’s at.

Quadrilateral, actually.  A 4-sided box that contains a method for making sense of the world.  This is a United Methodist method, in fact, and one you can put to use immediately.

We call it the “Wesleyan Quadrilateral”, although Dr. Albert Outler coined the term centuries after John Wesley’s time.  Outler studied Wesley extensively, and the Quadrilateral isn’t just what Wesley taught but what Wesley did.

It’s a method for strengthening your faith, based on four sources John Wesley drew upon time and again.  Here they are:

SOURCE #1:  Scripture.  This is the big one.  Scripture contains everything sufficient for us as believers, and so we look to it to inform our faith more than the others.  However, we Methodists want to confirm and enhance our understanding as we interpret the Word.  Which brings us to…

SOURCE #2.  Tradition.  For thousands of years now, people have written about God.  Speculated about Jesus.  Tried to interpret the work of the Holy Spirit.  Those writings form the basis of our tradition–and we use them to help us peel back the layers of scripture and yield new understanding.  Tradition can also refer to the activities of different faith groups — including our own — as they’ve passed down through the centuries.

SOURCE #3.  Reason.  Wesley was a strong proponent of logic, reason, and science.  God gave us these intricate minds — it’s only appropriate for us to use them as we try to wrestle with difficult subjects and complicated ideas.

SOURCE #4.  Experience.  This one’s kind of tricky, because experience can be so subjective from one person to the next.  It refers to the experience of the Holy Spirit within and around us–how it has warmed our hearts and confirmed our faith.

Maybe you knew all that and this was just a reminder.  Maybe you’ve never explored such ideas before.  Regardless, let me make it clear:  It’s hip to be square.

It’s incredibly cool to use these four sources to strengthen your faith!  People who embrace the Quadrilateral as part of their daily faith walk will find greater depth, greater balance, and greater meaning in their lives.

Now, you might have noticed — it’s actually possible for two people to use these sources and come out with entirely different notions!  One person could weigh out scripture, tradition, reason, and experience, and decide they are pro-life, and another could do the same thing and identify as pro-choice.   Your faith could point you against gay marriage, and your best friend could believe the opposite.  Faithful people can come to very different faith conclusions.

If we don’t all believe the same way, what good is the Quadrilateral in the first place?

Ah, but that’s the hippest part of the whole thing.   If we carefully, faithfully use these four sources — we may come to different conclusions, but we ARE believing the same way.  We’re holding fast to a process that produces Christians with integrity.

It doesn’t create complete agreement.  It creates creative people.  People who are willing to investigate and ask questions, to delve into the traditions of the church, to read scripture vigorously, and to seek the Holy Spirit’s blessing.

If we can commit to doing all of that, then there is hope for us to learn and grow together.  (Wesley called that Christian Conferencing, a really cool concept for another day).

Do you get it?  Those four sources form a STREngth that cannot be ignored.  The more people choose to be this deliberate and methodical, the stronger we become as God’s family, even when we don’t always agree.

So spread the word.  It’s hip to be square.  Let’s make this precious process popular…

Until everybody’s doing it.

Have a great week,

Mitch

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The Bible Part III

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So, I really liked parts I and II (The Old and New Testaments),

but do you think it’s time to reopen the canon?

The canon is the collection of writings that have come to be known as The Bible.

Hundreds and hundreds of years ago we closed it up and declared it sufficient.

But then again…

That was before cloning.  Maybe we could use some instruction on that.

It was before technology of any sort, really.

It was before talk of global warming, or gay marriage, or reality television.

Should we commission a supplemental volume —

to clarify what Jesus really meant?

Who would decide what goes in to a Bible Part III?

Would scholars?  Pastors?  You or me? Would we have a 1-800 call in voting system?

I wonder.  Would we come to blows over what constitutes The Word of God?

Probably.

Come to think of it, we already do that with the Bible we have.

Okay then.  No Part III.

No point in adding to the “canon fodder”.

But here’s a thought:

If God had intended the Bible to be the last Word — why give people the gift of writing?

Sure, the Bible may be the most important book on the shelf, but that doesn’t mean you ignore the whole library around you, right?

No, I think God inspires people even today.

From NT Wright to William P. Young (look em up), the written word has the power to enlighten and instruct.

Someone, right now, may be writing words on a page that will one day convey a life-changing insight, one that may cause you or I to revise even the most die-hard opinions we’ve had about The Bible.

I’m going to stay open to that possibility.

I firmly believe that The Good Book points me to a relationship with God, through Christ.  It shows me what salvation means.  It welcomes me into a life of Kingdom-living. It is the foundation by which I try to live my life.

But just the same…

When it comes to something like cloning, or global warming, or even gay marriage…

I’m just glad to remember that God

is still speaking.

Mitch

 

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Literally.

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You know what I’m a little tired of?

The word “literally”.  I am literally tired of the word literally.

But so is everybody else.  Especially when it’s misused.

“It was so funny I was literally dying!”   No you weren’t.  You were laughing.  Use better English

So yeah, overusing “literally” in common speech is annoying.

But you know what concerns me even more? (And will possibly get me some hate mail…)

Overusing “literally” when talking about faith.  More specifically, the Bible.

There are many Christians who read the Bible “literally”, like a book of facts.  Like the answer key for everything.  A Book that has no discrepancies and no falsehoods.

I understand  why people are attracted to that form of faith.  It means putting your faith in one source, one place in the whole world where human infallibility can’t corrupt.

The Bible becomes an anchor of singular truth, cast down from God to keep the faithful from drowning in a world of chaos.

I kind of get that.  It sounds easier than the doggy paddling my faith must do from time to time.

But here’s what I wonder:  What use is imagination if the Bible requires none?  Or doubt, for that matter, in the face of the literal truth?  Why did God give us discerning brains but then lay it all out for us at face value?

Why, after all, do human beings need the Bible to be, from cover to cover, literally true?

I, for one, think the Bible is indeed inspired by God, but written through many different people, in a variety of cultures and settings.

I think the Bible contains life shaping instruction and wisdom, but that it has to to be fleshed out with my whole being.  My mind, my traditions, even my experiences.

I don’t think of the Bible as a Fact book, filled with one unerring detail after another, but rather as a Truth book–to be uncovered and interpreted–even argued with!

By reducing my use of the word “literally” when talking about the Bible, it means the Good Book is to be used in conjunction with the rest of my life, not hovering over it, set apart from it.  It becomes the supreme faith tool, not just an answer key.

Living faithfully without the “literal” tag means a life with more uncertainty, more wrestling, and more searching for God throughout the world.

And I literally wouldn’t want it any other way.

Have a Good Week,

Mitch

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