Saturday, May 23, 2015

First things first

This Sunday I'm starting a new series in Sunday school teaching biblical interpretation.  I have taught this class twice already over the past several years, typically using Fee and Stuart's book, "How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth", as a text.  This year I only have six weeks and had to trim it down a bit.  So I've decided to skip the text and work on a few subjects that I feel the Church really needs to hear.  Besides choosing a good translation and some necessary definitions like hermeneutics, exegesis and eisgesis, I'm going to focus on our view of God's Word.

The view we have of God's Word, the place it holds in our life, will make a huge difference in how we approach interpretation and the conclusions we come to.  It isn't a secret that for some the Bible simply serves only utilitarian and devotional needs and nothing more.  It gets pulled down from the shelf and dusted off  in order to win an argument or to read when feeling bad or particularly religious. The amount of biblical illiteracy among Christians in America is well document.

Nonetheless the answer is not to shame people into reading it.  The last thing I want is a bunch of academics who hope to pass the final exam by reading the textbook.  In fact, I loath to hear people refer to the Holy Bible as God's textbook! It is so much more than a mere textbook.  It is God's revelation of himself to humans.

On the other hand, neither is it "God's love letter to me".  Even a casual reading will reveal that any love letter written like the Bible would surely be a showstopper for most budding lovers.  Just read Numbers or Judges.  Again, like the other extreme just mentioned, the Bible is so much more.  Yes, it is the revelation of the God who is love, who loved me so much that he sent his Son to die for me while I was still wallowing and even reveling in my sin.  But too easily the "love letter" moniker leads us to the false view of the centrality of "I" in God's plan.  It isn't about us.  It is about Him.

I recently read a post on Canon Fodder titled "Five Things Every Christian Should be Doing with God’s Word". I would encourage you to read it.  Using Psalm 119, the author goes on to explain the place of the Word of God in every believer's life.  One quote in particular hit home.  Explaining how we should delight in the Law he writes,

"...David has passion, zeal, and excitement for the law and commandments of God.  And the reason for this is not hard to find.  David loves God’s law not because he is a closet legalist.  He loves God’s law because the law reflects God’s own nature and character. He loves God’s law because he loves God–and who God is and what he is like."

This is really what I want my Sunday school class to take away from tomorrow's lesson. Without this passion and delight for God's Word, everything else can easily turn into a mere mental exercise, leaving the Christian smarter but really no better.  Yes, we need to exegete God's Word accurately.  But what a tragedy if that never translates into a love for the One who wrote it.

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