Monthly Archives: August 2014

And Tony Jones is Wrong, too…

If you don’t know Tony Jonestony_jones then you haven’t been around the Emergent Church movement. Brian McLarenMcLaren, Doug Pagitt and a bunch of other people are part of a relatively new direction in Christianity. But that’s not what I’m about here.

I just finished reading Jones’ book on the Atonement. He roamed through the historic views and presents a new one. In the process he discounts AugustineAugustine, Calvin and a handful of others… including Paul. Now, I can’t claim that I know what Paul was thinking, but I’m thinking the presentation of the Bible overall would make a lot more sense if people saw the work Jesus did on the cross differently… well from Jones… and Augustine and CalvinJohn Calvin for that matter.

Been thinking on this for a while and if you’ve been hearing me preach then you heard some of what my thought includes. So, let me begin with a story. I went to a trainer to get in shape at one point. She was running me through a series of tests just to appraise my overall fitness before starting a regimen. And so, at one point, she told me to do as many push-ups as possible.

I’ve always been one of those people who could “drop and give ya 20.” So I went down with that expectation. I was shocked when I could not lift my shoulders off the floor, not even once. Something wasn’t responding inside me. No matter what I tried nothing moved. I immediately went in for a check-up and discovered that a recent fall, down a stairs, had stretched a ligament or a tendon so much that it had no recovery. My trainer had to work with me to strengthen the muscles all around my shoulder before it started to respond. Even now I experience particular weakness in that spot at times.

My point is that something inside me was “dead.” It was no longer working as it should.

Now, let’s get to sin. Back in Genesis, God tells Adam and Eve that if they eat of the fruit of the tree they will surely die. But they don’t. For some people this is the first contradiction in the Bible. So, let’s consider an alternative. Let’s consider God told the truth and something inside them did die. Something stopped responding as it should. Death inserted itself. It came upon us.

If you’ve read my blogs or heard me preach or tell stories then one you may have heard is how I’ve asked people of every type and persuasion a simple question. “If you cheated on the person who loved you best and they never found out, would something inside you still die?” Every person I’ve asked that of has told me, “Yes.” And that is sin. Sin is that little death created by how we treat others, or mistreat others, or fail in love… or whatever you want to say. The way we live and breathe spreads death. This death separates us from each other. All we have to do is walk down a street and not look at someone to make them feel separated or judged or worthless. We infect others with death as we live with them. As much as we would love to love even those closest to us with a completely unconditional and selfless love, we still have everything that’s within us that messes that up and, subsequently, mess with them as well.
So, What-is-the-Atonementthis is the first of a short set of blogs on a different view of God’s work, the cross, Jesus and atonement. I hope you feel they’re worthy of discussion. I’d love to hear your thought.


The Bible Literal and Inerrant

knight_errantLately, I’ve been hearing and reading of people who remark about those who take the Bible literally as if that’s a bad thing. The thing about words is what they mean and what they mean as they’re used.
“Literally” means that you adhere to the basic meaning of a text. I’m thinking there’s a lot of Christians who would take that definition as their own. They would be quite willing to say that they take the basic meaning of the Bible as what they believe. In a similar way I bet that a number of Christians would say the Bible was “inerrant” if that meant that it didn’t meander off of truth and even into bad behavior… like an “errant knight” used to wander in search of adventure. Nice for bored knights, but not for truth.
We’ve changed the meaning of these words as we used them. Now they mean “strict adherence” and “without mistake.” Both of these interpretations of these words make a host of people of any age uncomfortable.
I’ve been asked a number of times where I stand on the “inerrancy of Scripture,” and my first response is, “I don’t answer that question because I don’t know your definition of ‘inerrant.’” Then I say, before the person can tell me their definition, that “I believe the Bible is true… front to back. I believe the Bible is truebible1 and that it is the inspired word of God. I believe God will speak through it directly into my life and mind and I believe that God expects that I won’t understand it all, but will learn to trust him through it because of what I can understand.”
If someone wants something more than that then they are no longer interested in knowing me. They just want to decide whether I’m in/out, right/wrong, left/right, for/against. All of that has nothing to do with me or with what God is doing in my heart or even in the world. It also has nothing to do with the Interpreter of God’s Word – Jesus. Jesus explained that he is the one who interprets God’s Word (“You’ve heard it was said… but I tell you…” Matthew 5). I’m going with Jesus on that as well.
We have this book that God gave us so we could understand him better. God doesn’t seem to mind if we translate it into a million languages. He doesn’t seem to mind if his Word came as a diary (Nehemiah), eroticism (Song of Songs), history (e.g. I Kings), a letter (Paul), general poetry (Psalms) or a cosmic vision (Revelation). What he does seem to care about, according to Jesus, is that we don’t make it all about rules and that we don’t throw away a part (particularly when it makes us uncomfortable). He’s also clear that we get it wrong at times and need his Spirit and the community of believers to work together to provide our best, discerned understanding of it. And that discernment is primarily in how we act toward others and not about ideas. It appears that God is very much about verbs (activity) and not so big on nouns (concepts). This suggests to me, along with the example of Jesus, that he is very big on how the Book teaches us to hear God daily and obey, rather than how well we memorize and repeat it.