Friday, September 17, 2010

two resources

Over the years I have had my doubts about whether the Bible really has the sort of priority it needs to have in the life of the so-called "EPC" (evangelical-pentecostal-charismatic) churches of NZ. [NB - it probably says something that these groups have been clumped together like this!]

Ironically, it is these EPC churches which trumpet a commitment to the authority of Scripture, but if such a commitment was a crime and the prosecuting attorney was sent to investigate, the question must be asked - again and again - whether they would find enough evidence to bring a conviction? In personal life? Family life? Small group life? Local churches on a Sunday morning?

The Bible tends to be assumed, rather than articulated. A commitment to the Bible tends to be more theoretical, than it is practical. There tends to be talk about it - and not often a lot of action with it. Believe you me, the evidence can be gathered! In the Baptist circles with which I am most familiar, at times I have discerned among leaders a fear of making the Bible too important - as if elevating the Bible necessarily leads to diminishing Jesus, or some such logic.

And yet the situation is improving.

This evidence is there too. The success of the E100 Bible-reading project. The state of our theological colleges where biblical studies is being taken more seriously than ever. The interest in biblical preaching at the grassroots can be overwhelming at times. The re-emergence of groups like TSCF with their commitment to the Scriptures ... it is all very heartening.

Then this past month I stumbled across a couple of resources:

1. An article on the Bible by a Langham colleague, Mark Meynell, entitled "First Things First ... and Last" which has been published online here. It is just SO helpful. I am thinking of photocopying it for a discussion in our young adults home group. Mark is also a Senior Associate Minister at All Souls in London and keeps a remarkable blog going here.

2. The two volume daily devotional by DA Carson, entitled For the Love of God is available now on-line here. Carson makes his way through the Bible following the Robert Murray McCheyne plan which is about reading four chapters a day. On each day Carson selects just one of these passages and offers a page-long meditation. It is meaty (yes, sometimes I have reached for my dictionary) and provides a much more nourishing feed than many of the daily devotionals on offer today. One thing that is so helpful in the online version is that whenever there is a biblical reference mentioned, the full text comes onto the screen by hovering the mouse over the reference.

I commend both of these resources to you

nice chatting

Paul

2 comments:

Heather said...

I do hope you're right that it's changing.

A while back Martin and I changed our Bible reading habits to simply reading it through from the beginning. Each morning we generally read a chapter, sometimes less depending on how complicated the material is. From time to time we skip through to a NT book or a book of the Psalms, and we do special readings for Advent and Lent. We turn to commentaries and things when we can't make sense of things, but mostly we jsut read it and talk about it.

We're paused at the moment as we're doing the E100 with our housemate instead, taking more or less the same approach except that I listen to Tim Bulkeley's 5 minute Bible comments on the texts as well.

The thing that has stunned me in doing this is how much of the theology that I have absorbed through lifelong Christian involvement just doesn't seem to be in the Bible! And how much stuff that seems to direct contradict it is there!

Stunned really isn't too strong a word.

Stuff like how God is so deeply concerned for His honour. How he's deeply interested in having a relationship with His creatures, but not terribly fussed about them dying.

The basic Christian story I've been taught about what Jesus' death achieved doesn't even seem to be true. In the OT it appears that the Holy Spirit was already *much* more active than I had been led to believe, and salvation also appears to have been possible. So Jesus presumably widened the scope of these things, but didn't make them available for the first time.

And this from someone who's been using Scripture Union notes for daily quiet times for at least 15 years....

It really has made me question how seriously we are all taking the Bible.

I recently wrote an email airing some of this stuff and wondering what it all means for the Western church. I tried to back up my points with Biblical references and was surprised how many of them, on closer inspection, appeared not to make my point at all. The one about how you won't be given a burden heavier than you can bear comes to mind. Turns out that it actually says you won't be given a temptation from which there is no way you can flee. Many of these were verses that I have frequently heard quoted, complete with the meaning I thought they had.

I wonder if we often read what we expect to see there anyway - what someone else has told us is there. So we refer to the Bible often, and are challenged by what we think it says, but we are rarely surprised by it.

Anyway, enough ranting. I look forward to reading the Mark Meynell thing you refered to.

--Heather :-)

Paul said...

My sincere apologies, Heather - I missed this thoughtful response.

There is no substitute to reading and rereading the Scriptures in order to get the full flow of the story, allowing it to fill our blindspots and cripple our hobby horses.

The growth area for me is in the Christ-centered reading of Scripture - what the Jesus Storybook Bible refers to as how "every story whispers his name" - and so developing a sensitivity to the seams and themes in Scripture and how they revolve around Jesus and find their completion and fullness in him.

blessings

Paul