Saturday, January 31, 2015

God, You, and the Bible

I'm once again enjoying 12StoneChurch® this weekend, teaching New Testament for their biblical studies program in cooperation with IWU. It's a cocktail of delight, not only with the familiar faces of students now in their fourth course, but with comrades like Robin Ritchie, Chris Huff, Dave Ward, Steve Lennox, and Chris Bounds.

As a Bible person, I've thought a lot about what I'm doing when I teach Bible and frequently ask myself what I'm supposed to do. On the one thing, I think I know some stuff. I have this degree that says I do. But many voices wonder if the stuff I know is helpful or useful.

I believe truth is a legitimate pursuit for its own sake. But from the standpoint of priority--what should a teacher teach in a certain context--some truths are more important or more useful than others in certain situations. Indeed, some truths can be counter-productive.

Believe it or not, this is also true about the Bible. In particular, the path to historical understanding is tricky. It starts with, "I want to know more about the Bible." It becomes, "I want to know what it really meant." But the person who starts this path usually doesn't know where this path leads. Some end up as history-deniers (fundamentalists). Others end up denying the importance of history (post-liberals). Others end up with a certain antiquarianism that locks up the Bible in the past.

This has long been my struggle. In conversation with Dave Ward yesterday and in recent reflection, I think I finally have a formula for my approach to teaching Bible in a Christian context:

1. There are two functions of Scripture - formation and information. Formation is by far the more important, even though both are valid.

2. God meets, forms, and informs us where we are. The goal is not to lead someone to some place where they can meet God. God always meets us here and now, wherever we are.

3. I have some thoughts about the Bible. I'm a Biblehead. Some of those thoughts are probably right. Some of them are probably wrong. God meets me where I'm at in my understanding, right or wrong.

4. As a Bible teacher, I teach some of the stuff I think I know, about what the Bible really meant, as well as some of the things other people have thought about the Bible. The goal, though, is not to take students to a place where they can meet God--God meets us everywhere on the journey.

5. God met the people of the Bible in history, and I can gain from learning about that. God meets us now, with whatever understanding we have, right or wrong, and forms us to be more like him.


Martin LaBar said...

Ah. Formation over information. But pursuing, or arguing over, information is often more fun. But we aren't in this for fun.


RDavid said...

Terrific theology at 12Stone, but I just hope they get away from the extra-heavy entertainment emphasis and "best life now" services. A little more actual mentioning of Jesus would be nice.

Ken Schenck said...

I heard a sermon yesterday on the body of Christ at my church and that's the way I view churches too. Different churches are different parts of the body of Christ. 12Stone has a TREMENDOUS ministry to thousands of people. There are some things they don't even try to do in order to focus on their priorities. But they are amazing at the areas to which they feel called!

RDavid said...

I am not going to bash 12Stone here. As I said, their underlying theology, and heart, is great. Kevin Queen (at the Hamilton Mill location) is one of the best young preachers around.

However, I would just hope your influence would help them get back of a more Jesus centered focus and emphasis each week.

I am not complaining about style or size (I attend a contemporary megachurch), just priorities (at least what many are seeing as their priorities).