The Thirty Minute Blogger

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Monday, March 18, 2013

So, Exactly What Is the Bible Good For: Good News From Christianity

Here's a couple of good quotes from N.T. Wright on the subject of what the Bible does for the reader. The first is from his book, Simply Christian:
“It helps to remind ourselves constantly what the Bible is given to us for. One of the most famous statements of “inspiration” in the Bible itself puts it like this: “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Equipped for every good work; there’s the point. The Bible is breathed out by God so that it can fashion and form God’s people to do his work in the world. … It is there to enable people to work for justice, to sustain their spirituality as they do so, to create and enhance relationships at every level, and to produce that new creation which will have about it something of the beauty of God himself.
The second is from his book The Last Word:
“Reading and studying scripture has been seen as central to how we are to grow in the love of God; how we come to understand God and his truth more fully; and how we can develop the moral muscle to live in accordance with the gospel of Jesus even when everything seems to be pulling the other way.”
 Donald Brash states in his book, The Indispensable Guide to God's Word:
I believe God's intention for the Bible is to testify to and to anchor the continuing dialogue between God our Creator and humanity. Just as God shepherded the Bible's formation, the Holy Spirit stirs our interpretations of it, as we seek God's guidance in faith.
 I suggest you open a dialogue with God today and see where it leads. Who knows what muscles you'll grow and what work you'll take up to work toward the new creation?

For those who ask, how do I defend the Bible against its detractors, my suggestion: don't. There is no need for you to defend the top selling book in the world. All you need to do is suggest the detractor sit down and read that Bible. Let God open a dialogue with that reader and do all the heavy lifting. For the true newcomer, perhaps you could suggest Peterson's paraphrase The Message as a starting point. For those with a more scholarly bent, or those who are being a tad fanciful in their reading, perhaps a good study Bible filled with guiding notes and references ... and NRSV or NIV depending on the reader's inclination. For the curious techno-geek there are various computer versions available ranging from the very cheap or free to the hardcore like the NRSV Study Bible with voluminous reference material. The best of the lot for combining various technologies to create a wonderful, elegant, slow read is the Glo Bible, which comes with various translations (NIV, NKJV, the Message, etc. ... but alas no NRSV just yet). It includes the entire Bible, the Zondervan Bible Encyclopedia under Notes, pictures that can be explored in depth, and videos about the life of Jesus.

There are a great many thorny passages in the Bible. They are uncomfortable and they are not easily dismissed. I suggest you wrestle with these, wrestle with them long and hard like Jacob wrestled with God in the night, as stated in Genesis 32:

24Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak.25When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket; and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. 26Then he said, “Let me go, for the day is breaking.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me.” 27So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” 28Then the man said, “You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed.” 29Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him. 30So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved.” 31The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip. 
You're likely to come away a changed person.

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