Relying on Logic Instead of Jesus


I saw a well respected speaker this week at a Christian educators convention, and noticed that despite his several doctorates and impressive résumé,  he treated the Bible as a sort of legal document and outright rejected the bible as story (but did accept narrative). Confusing! 


What I mean is that it seemed he (and judging by the positive response he got, many people) were fine with taking just what the Bible says, and then casting meaning onto it in order to fit it into an argument. For example, if one was so inclined we could use the story of Jesus feeding the 5 thousand to support an argument for over-fishing, saying "God multiplied the fishes then, so he can do it again in the oceans". This is just an illustration, not what was actually said at the conference. 

On the surface, the two statements above are a logical fit. However, the point of the story of Jesus feeding the 5 thousand isn't about fish and loaves. It's about the nature of Jesus' Kingdom (this becomes more apparent when you hold up the two contrasting stories of Jesus feeding 7 thousand people in Israel and 5 thousand people outside of Israel). So the problem is that even though we found a logical structure to support an opinion, we did so at the cost of losing the original intent, purpose and meaning of the scripture. In the process of that, we also lost the message of Jesus' kingdom. 

I noticed this happening on multiple occasions throughout the conference. I believe that the truth is always wrapped in some sort of context, and if we remove that context we are in danger of losing the truth. What makes it worse is that we will do so in the name of truth.

So here's the biggie ... the ultimate context. Jesus is the ultimate culmination, context and point of the scriptures, and it's Jesus himself who has all authority. 

If I understand correctly, one of the reasons for the doctrine of sola scriptura was to combat the medieval church's stance that tradition had equal authority with scripture. So I agree that when it comes to tradition vs scripture, scripture alone is the authority. The problem, however, is that scripture tells us that Jesus has all authority (Matthew 28:18). So I feel like we can miss the boat in the way we talk about the bible having all authority for life and faith, because it leads to the other thing where people feel that just because a verse of scripture supports their argument, then it's fair to use because scripture is also infallible. It just doesn't sit well with me. I hope that makes sense. 

The other thing I see happening is that because the Bible is viewed as without error, people assume than any verse is a good foundation for any other verse, which is where a surprising amount of poor theology comes from.

My discomfort in all of this, however, is that I think we inadvertently can end up worshipping the bible instead of Jesus, and I think I saw some of that in the conference. People were very edgy about being blessed because they follow the Bible. My belief is that we read the bible, but we follow Jesus. We are Christians, not Bibleans.

A few little (imperfect) metaphors I came up with:
If the Bible is a lamp to our feet, then Jesus is the sunrise.
The Bible illuminates the way, and Jesus IS the way.
The Bible is trustworthy because it points us to THE truth: Jesus.
The Bible gives the gift of pointing us to the source of all life: Jesus.

To be clear, I'm not saying we should throw out the bible because we have Jesus. I'm saying that I believe Jesus needs to be at the explicit center of all of our interpreting, teaching and reading of the Bible. I think that Jesus and the Bible have a symbiotic relationship. Without the Bible, we wouldn't know anything about Jesus so it would be a gamble whether or not we had any correct doctrine at all. But without Jesus at the explicit/stated/actual/real center of our thinking, the Bible becomes the weapon we use to defend our positions, and people get hurt.

The keynote speaker at the convention talked some about God's grace for sinners and such, but at the very same time the whole convention is hyper-focused on the 'infractions' of post-modern thinkers, evolutionists, gays, liberals, environmentalists etc etc etc. That focus concerns me because if we are the body of Christ, and if Jesus did not come to condemn the world, but to save the world, then I don't believe it's our job to condemn the world either. 

We do need to fairly and honestly deal with things like evolution and sexuality, but there must be a more peacemaking, Jesus-centred way to do it rather than "us" vs "them", where "we are good" and "they are bad."

I see a lot of 'us vs them' thinking in Christianity, and I think it's making people both inside and outside the Church angry. I also believe it is reinforcing a false perception about the core nature of Christianity as a moral code, rather than as a saving relationship with Jesus. There was at least one lady I was sitting beside who looked like she was coming unglued, and two entire rows of people in front of me were flabbergasted at the way the convention approached topics of morality and belief. I spoke to one lady briefly, who told me about how she was utterly frustrated by the presentations, and then she just got up and left. It was all around sad. I would personally want someone who I totally disagreed with to hear me talk about my convictions and leave feeling understood, loved, accepted and challenged. I want to be the kind of person who can have strong convictions about truth and live by them, but do so in a way that is open, gentle and humble, so as to emulate the love Jesus has for others in who I am.

The more we rely on Jesus in our day-to-day living, and the more we press into our actual relationship with him, cultivating our hearts with prayer, humbleness, spiritual disciplines, and community, the more I believe we will be able to be led by the Holy Spirit into truth when it comes to the scriptures. Logic and reason, therefore are reliable only to the extent that we are actually allowing ourselves to be led by the Holy Spirit into truth - and that is a matter between us and God (and perhaps some close spiritual partners like a life group) to figure out together.

References:
Heb 13, Matt 28, Mark 20:28, John 5:36-47, Luke 7:28, John 14:27, Col 1:15, Col 2:10, Gal 3:29, John 14:10

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