Blogging the Bible

A while ago there was blogging about churches. Now there’s blogging about the Bible. Both, I think, are interesting. David Plotz at Slate is blogging what’s really in the Bible. He realizes, after reading about the rape of Dinah, that he didn’t really know the Bible all that well, even though he felt like he did. Frankly, I’m not sure how many Christians know the Bible very well. (Plotz is Jewish.)

The point of his blogging is to comment, from the perspective of someone who is neither a committed Christian nor a committed Jew, on the incidents in the Bible that most people don’t know about.

He notices striking things. Beyond “Who was Cain’s wife?” (who really cares, anyway?), he notices that God seems a little capricious. He seems to just choose Abram for the heck of it.

Why Abram? There is no obvious reason. Unlike Noah, he’s not a “righteous man.” He’s 75 years old and hasn’t done anything with his life. He isn’t pious, rich, or accomplished. He’s not a king, not a chief, not a prophet, not a genius, not a warrior. He’s completely ordinary, and I suppose that’s the point. Abram isn’t special: It is God choosing him that makes him special. He is a regular man touched by God—just like any of us could be.

Also, it seems, from our human point of view, that God is on the wrong side of “collective punishment” and people like Abram are on the right side.

This problem of collective punishment seems to plague the Bible—the flood, Babel, Sodom and Gomorrah, the Egyptians in the Red Sea. To my modern eyes—though perhaps not to the Bible’s authors—collective punishment appears to be the great moral question of the Torah. And God is on the wrong side of it. And Abraham is on the right one.

I think it has something to do with humans being on the wrong side of God.

Anyway, it’s all interesting, and I think we had better admit that the Bible does not give us all the answers we want, nor, even when it gives us answers, does it give us the answers we think we want. The best Biblical verse for the challenge (and it’s in the Torah, no less)? Deuteronomy 29:29: “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.”

“The secret things belong to Yahweh our God.”

Timotheos

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9 thoughts on “Blogging the Bible

  1. “And God is on the wrong side of it.”

    The spin of the discussion is why God is wrong, rather than why God is right.

    And, of course, arguing that Abram (mankind) is really the right one here.

    Just more excuses to justify dis-belief.

  2. This is a really good post I must say.

    I think the points you both brought up are the essence of unbelief.

    Namely, that God is God, He sets the rules, He knows what’s right and He has the authority to judge.

    God isn’t God because we recognize that He does good things or punishes properly (in our minds).

    I think our God becomes harder to accept when we must accept Him on His terms and not our own. Suddenly all the folks who love Jesus, “because he is their buddy and friend” may be creating a god that is validated not through the scriptures, but through the human heart and emotions. I know that I’m guilty of this at times, but I know better and thank God my church teaches me to know better.

  3. At the university where I work we have an Institute of Religious Studies. It is chaired and staffed primarily by left-wing secular professors who “study” religion. Furthermor, they will generally only hire secular professors to run the place.

    I am often chastised for calling them Theologists rather than Theologians.

    You may remember a flap a few months back when a university professor resigned as chair of his department for publicly mocking conservative christians, as well as mocking conservative christian students in his classes.

    So, the chair resigned and the replaced him with the assistant department chair who is just as anti-God as the first guy. It is a very icky situation. Lots of ignorant young college students taking classes to learn, and being filled with theological garbage.

  4. Tim,

    when you say “I’m not sure how many Christians know the Bible very well.”, what do we mean by “knowing the Bible well” in a christian contexts anyway?
    Even what we do in our conservative churches makes me more and more uncomfortable, especially regarding children education. Too often,we encourage a “fill-in-the-blanks” mentality, as if the Bible was the big book of answers and questions. It is a very “mechanistic” approach, and I do not think it equips our people

  5. Good point J.M.

    Who’s eyes are we teaching people to look through when studying the Bible?

    We can talk all day long about studying the Bible through our own eyes, or the eyes of other men. But where does that get us?

    Or, are we correctly studying through the eyes of the Holy Spirit?

    If we don’t study through the Holy Spirit we can’t know the Bible well, regardless of how much we read it and memorize chapter and verse.

  6. I agree with you Jean-Martin: the knowledge of the Bible cannot be “fill-in-the-blank.” It must be a comprehensive knowledge that includes the distinction between Law and Gospel, and, especially, Justification in Christ (the true Word of God) as the heart and soul of what the written Word of God is about.

    Tim

  7. Sure, but HOW do we do that? How do we educate our people, in a context where generic evangelicalism shapes much of the use (or misuse) of the Bible that is done?

  8. I think a good start is to turn people back to the Lutheran Confessions. I was amazed — just outright shocked — at how right the Lutheran viewpoint is, when I saw it laid out in the Confessions for the first time. And I grew up in an LCMS church! But to see the obvious case for the salvific effect of baptism, and the clear passages on the Lord’s Supper, and the proper distinction between Law and Gospel — those insights were eye-opening, to say the least.

  9. Excellent Questions J.M.

    Here are some positive things I’ve seen recently:

    Several congregations in which I have knowledge or a contact, are focusing back to the Catechism and Confessions. I know of several pastors who hold regular adult study sessions on the BoC.

    My pastor is agressively pushing adults to take his adult confirmation class as a refresher, where he talks very specifically about the Confessions and the BoC.

    This is in addition to 3+ regularly scheduled Bible studies. Plus our elders meet weekly for their own study, which others may attend. The newest thing is initiating a book study, starting with “Fire and the Staff”, for those seeking a more collegiate approach. I’m sure the Confessions and BoC will be discussed here as well.

    Pastor also holds his own “ask the pastor” sessions as an alternative to Bible studies on Sunday morning. We have Asst. Pastor and DCE who lead Bible studies at the same time.

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