I come to the bible with baggage

At my church we recently started a new series called “the white space” (click here for the message from last weekend) and it’s a series about exploring;

The Bible.

Who wrote it? Why do we have it? What’s the purpose of it? Is it to be taken literally or not?

How do we engage the Bible in a way that opens us to the kind of transformation and change that it’s meant to bring in our lives individually and together as a community?

I missed out hearing it last weekend, but this morning as I listened to it via the podcast I started dwelling on what the bible means to me, and it led me to realizing that I come to the bible with baggage.

http://www.lotnisko-chopina.pl/en/airport/about-the-airport/pressroom/news/2013/2/improved-baggage-handling-at-chopin-airport/image

The baggage I come to the bible is threefold; it’s what I gleaned from the bible through my father’s lens, my mother’s lens, and my own lens.
Disclaimer: not all of what I’ve gleaned over the years can be summed up in “good” or “bad” terms, it’s what I learned and it shaped me and still to a certain extent it shapes me. My views of God and the bible 5 years ago doesn’t necessarily reflect where I am now and what I think, evolution in this regard should be embraced not looked at with contempt.

With that being said, what I gleaned from the bible via my father was a black and white stance, a literal take on nearly everything in the bible. I recognized his emphases were on verses concerning Paul rather than Jesus. I also got the feeling that God was out to get humanity, or at the very least a portion of humanity.
I remember when I was either 6 or 7 in our basement we had a easel with a large pad of paper on it, and on it was the Calvinist TULIP acronym on it and a cross shaped bridge between God and humanity. I learned both of their meanings from my father, but even then I wrestled with this take on God.
From my mom I learned I was not good, because “only God is good”, I was called bad but good was never affixed to me. I also learned sin, as she defined it, was whatever separated us from God (and in a way I still hold onto this view). She instilled the majority of my spiritual life between the two of them; bible studies, read-the-bible-in-a-year, “our daily bread” daily devotional, prayer time.

I don’t regret this part of my upbringing, it laid a foundation, my foundation, of who I am today. It served as building blocks and not stepping stones; that is, it built me spiritually, it wasn’t a jumping off to another item, and so on.

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And yet, as it naturally happens, my views changed. More to the point, I changed. It was gradual, but I realize a common theme; God put people in my life who indirectly caused me to think differently, a gentle nudging of the Holy Spirit to reexamine my thoughts and ideas and views. I will say this, that whenever you encounter “the others” in your life, you might have to change what you hold dear, because people from all walks of life matter to God.
So many of my thoughts and perspectives were laid to waste, my assumptions and presumptions were dismissed, and my level of grace extended and received multiplied exponentially…Thanks be to God!

But still, I carry quite a bit baggage when it comes to the bible. If I’m honest with myself I am usually combatant when people drop a “well you know Paul said about that” in a conversation, and I’m quick to retort “yeah? Well what did Jesus say about that?” Paul has his say in quite a bit of the New Testament, and I want to delve into what he said but it’s hard for me to do sometimes.

But I want to. I want to engage in difficult texts, I want to engage with Christians who have different stories and philosophies and theologies that differ from my own, I want to and I believe I’m moving in that direction.

This past weekend this model of reading the bible was discussed:
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And it’s what I needed and also what I wanted. God and this model will help me get out of my head and into my heart, inasmuch it’s going from internal practice to external behaviors.
I come with baggage, but I’m able to discard it in a healthy manner that respects both my past and my present, and certainly as God will lead me- my future.

~Nathanael~

Infallible or Inspired; the tension of how the Bible is read

There will probably always be the tension of reading the Bible and understanding it as infallible or inspired.

To clear the air as to what that entails I’ll put it out there:
Thinking the Bible is infallible means that there cannot be any errors within the text, while the inspired perspective on the Bible means that God spoke to and through the writers and by that method they were the ones who put the Bible together…

Personally I’m caught in this tension simply because of the different circles of followers of Christ I hang out with, some have a conservative view on life and so from their their faith is developed while others have a liberal worldview and so from there their faith has been cultivated.
Is it wrong to be conservative or liberal? No, if not practiced to the extreme. I believe it’s good to be even keel in one’s beliefs, whether in matters of faith or other matters, to have a balance in what one believes to be true.

I also believe that one should be able to live with a bit of doubt; too often I think followers of Christ (myself included) have only lived out our faith because we think we have all the answers and we’re the ones who are right…but I believe that as a result of this we’ve traded faith in for certainty, to which as Anne Lamott so aptly put it; “the opposite of faith isn’t doubt, it’s certainty.” To which I would have to agree with her, but sometimes I think Christiandom only says “we are right” in a cocksure matter-of-fact kinda way, when we should live in the tension of doubt and faith and say “what if we’re wrong?” As Peter Rollins says quite often (to which it’s the theme of his book Insurrection) “to believe is human, to doubt divine.” And while I won’t get into it in this post, I believe Jesus too hung in this tension for a while when he lived some 2000 years ago.

I believe that whether you fall on the side of the fence that says the Bible is infallible or whether you fall on the side of the fence that says the Bible is inspired that the Bible needs to be read in context. By context I mean not the verse alone, not even the verses surrounding that verse alone, not even that chapter alone… But all of the Bible needs to be read as to give the fullest broadest perspective, to read in a co-mingling of faith and doubt and trust and tension. But one thing to keep in mind is that who we are and what we have gone through as well as what we’re going through affects how we read and keep in the Bible as well as what we keep out of the Bible as well, as NakedPastor put it in one of my favorite comics; “The Bible + My Interpretation = My Interpretation”

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Your turn:

To Christians, how do you read into the Bible? 

To people of other faith systems, do you live in the tension of your texts? Whether they be infallible or inspired or other?

~Nathanael~