How We (Mis)Read the Bible: Being Biblical As We Try To Be Biblical - John Stonestreet
Another speaker I heard last year was John Stonestreet, who is President of the (Chuck) Colson Center for Christian Worldview. I remembered him as a dynamic speaker and wanted to hear him again, especially in light of this topic. Lately, I seem to be surrounded by people who say God told them to do something but the thing doesn't seem to me to be very Biblical. So, what does Mr. Stonestreet have to say?
The first thing he told us is that he has the "spiritual gift of sarcasm." That should set the tone for you right away. This seminar is not for the easily offended. I will do my best to share his ideas from my notes, but I am sure I missed some important thoughts. He also recommended a lot of resources which I will share in a list at the end of this post.
1 - God exists (as opposed to the Naturalistic worldview)
2 - God is personal (as opposed to the Eastern or New Age worldviews)
3 - God has spoken (as opposed to the Post-modernistic worldview)
Are we being shaped by the Bible?
Teens today do value religion, but they mostly identify with a moralistic therapeutic theism which they have learned from their churches and/or parents.
Moralistic: God wants us to be good people.
Therapeutic: God wants us to feel good and be happy.
Theism: God is "there for them" but requires nothing of them.
On the screen, John projected many images of the different views of Jesus that our culture holds.
- Buddy Jesus - Jesus is here to bless YOU. Consumer Christianity: I shop, therefore I am. (for Christian items)
- Social Justice Jesus - This Jesus is all about alleviating poverty and has the attitude that "all poverty is financial."
- Cool Jesus - Biker/hipster/etc.
- Oprah Jesus - One way among many
- Political Jesus - Salvation comes through a political party.
Jewish Rabbi Abraham Heschel – “It seems puzzling to me how greatly attached to the Bible you seem to be and how much like pagans you handle it."
Ways We MisHandle The Bible
Mistake #1 - We don't really read it. We own more Bibles than ever, but most are not read.
Mistake #2 - Read it without recognizing context.
Don't take verses like Jeremiah 29:11 or Isaiah 55:8 out of context.
Bible verses are not fortune cookies.
Never read *a* Bible verse again. (Except for Proverbs)
For instance, the context of Matthew is Deuteronomy.
Cross-references are helpful for understanding context.
Read larger sections of the Bible, but don't take those out of context either, such as 1 Corinthians 13.
Don't take the Moral McNugget approach (credit to Philip Yancey) which divorces the meaning from the larger context. He said we squeeze it and squeeze it until out pops a 'moral McNugget'.
Don't treat Bible stories like Aesops's Fables or children will equate them in importance. He used the example of Max Lucado's Facing Your Giants as a way of taking a Bible story out of context. It's not true that just focusing on God means you will beat your giants.
Mistake #3 - Read Selectively.
We often read about Noah and the Ark but leave out the Noah Drunk in Tent story.
Can you read any novel that way? How about Les Miserables?
Mistake #4 - The "Magic" Use
The Bible Code. Don't look for hidden stuff until you've got the obvious stuff down pat.
Prayer of Jabez
Mistake #5 - Personalization
Every Bible promise is NOT ours.
The Bible is not an "answer book" like an encyclopedia.
The Bible (and Jesus) isn't necessarily interested in answering my questions.
Which world do we actually live in and what's its story?
God chooses to give us the gospel in a story. The entirety of Genesis to Revelation is the gospel.
On The Handling of Scripture
1 - All but ignore chapter and verse. Better to read 45 minutes once a week than 5 minutes daily. (Except Psalms, Proverbs)
2 - Hold the story together as much as possible.
3 - Read it as written. Ask the questions.
4 - The story culminates in Christ Jesus.
5 - Avoid forced moralisms and therapy.
6 - It's not a book of heroes.
7 - This is our world, from Heavens to Earth to New Heavens and New Earth.
Genesis 1-11 show the brokenness.
Revelation 7-21 show everything returned and restored.
8 - Think "Re". Redemption and created intent.
Despair is a sin because Christ has risen.
Big Picture Story Bible by Crossway (tells one single story - best children's Bible he knows)
Biblica - "The Books of the Bible" (reordered, takes out chapter/verse/columns, reads like a book)