Wednesday, August 31, 2011

This is no normal story....

The Bible isn't set up for newbies.

How many times has someone decided they want to know more about this Bible thing, so they sit down and start reading at Genesis and only make it two chapters in and decide the Bible is too hard to understand and they put it down?

Or even worse, they make it to Leviticus and Numbers and start reading laws about the proper way God wants you to sell your daughter or how slaves need to obey their masters, and they are seriously offended?

Or they get to Joshua, see a God that condones genocide, and decides that God is really evil, Christians are all F---ed up (a phrase I've heard more than once) and no good person could sign themselves up for the slaughter of innocent women and children?

And honestly, who can blame them for feeling that way?

Who isn't at least a little bothered that God let Satan do all those horrible things to Job?

Who isn't confused by Genesis 6:6, where it says God regretted making us on the Earth?

Who isn't a little freaked out by Psalm 137:9, "Happy is the one who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks"?

With any other book, you start reading at the beginning and it gives you the foundation for the rest of the story. Why would they think the Bible is any different? Isn't the beginning, the Creation story, the foundation for the rest? No wonder people get such a bad view of Christianity. If the craziness of the Old Testament is the lens through which the rest of the story makes sense, then this whole God thing is one crazy, screwed up story.

God's story, God's plan, isn't set up like that, though. This is no normal story.

The reason why Christianity is the one true religion is because none of this craziness, the craziness of thousands of years ago and the craziness of today, makes sense unless you view it through the lens of Jesus Christ. None of the world makes sense unless your foundation is a loving God, infinitely enraptured by each individual He created, who sent His only Son to die on a cross so that evil would forever be conquered and His beloved Creation could be reconciled to Him.

In 1 Corinthians 15:14, Paul writes, "And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith." If this is true, then trying to see a picture of God without looking through the lens of Christ is going to leave us with a completely false picture of God.

So what is the answer? How do we direct the newbies of the faith in reading the Bible so that their view of God is clear from the beginning? How should we who are more seasoned treat the scriptures that are harder to understand? How should those of us who are true Bible geeks incorporate this into our hermeneutical philosophy?

Start with the Gospels. First and foremost. Keep Jesus at the center by putting Him first. Tell newbies to start with Matthew and John before they read anything else (Luke or Mark is fine in place of Matthew, but that is what I suggest). When you read crazy things in Leviticus or difficult passages in Paul's letters, look at them through the lens of Jesus and the messages He preached. Whether you read things in historical context or believe the Bible is 100% literal for all times and all places, your interpretation is still only valid if it holds up when looked through the lens of Christ. Even the book of Revelation makes more sense when looked at through the lens of Christ.

So whether you are a newbie or if you've read the Bible cover to cover four times, take some time to read through one of the four Gospels. A teen I mentor did it in a day, certainly the rest of us can do at least half that. Pay special attention to what it is Jesus is preaching and what He represents in the story. Hold those truths as The Truth and keep it close to your heart. The rest of your Bible reading will blossom because of it!


Anonymous said...

I think it is wonderful that you are sharing this with people and that you recognize the inconsistencies in the bible, but I still don't understand how reading the bible through the "lens of Christ" is going to change the story. Even if you look at something with a different mindset, heart and attitude, the words are still the same. I think that you should explain this "lens of Christ" a little more. Seems a little too ambiguous to me, more of a fluffy answer for a much heavier subject.

Jenny said...

For space sake, I didn't go into specific examples. I'll do that in my next blog post, since you're interested. But let me give you an example that is not scriptural, that may help explain the concept.

All the time in email, miscommunication happens because people are reading the same words, but are looking at it through a different lens. Take for example the words:

"Do you know what this assignment is about?"

Now read it with these two scenarios (lenses) and see how the whole intent changes:

1. Imagine a shy person who just started at your workplace. They are a new intern out of college and want to do the best they can, but are struggling to figure out what the boss is asking them to do. They send you these words: "Do you know what this assignment is about?"

2. Imagine a frustrated, overbearing boss who just got done chewing you out in a meeting for not performing up to task. They are a condescending and sarcastic person. They send you these words: "Do you know what this assignment is about?"

Knowing the nature of the person sending the words is critical in understanding what the words are really saying. In the two examples above, two very different things were being said using the same words, because your knowledge of the person sending them.

The same happens with the Bible. If you read the words thinking that God is a vengeful person, who will smite you if you do wrong and likes seeing people punished, you will read the stories one way. If you read the same stories thinking that God is a loving God who's ultimate goal is being closer to the creation He loves, you will read the stories very different.

In my next post, I'll find a Bible story and break it down. I know this may have seemed overly simple, but it is a very simple concept. The simplest concepts are the ones that are screwed up the worst!

Thanks for the comment!