I have to admit that coming from a “speak where the Bible speaks and be silent where the Bible is silent” has been especially challenging to me as I have traveled through the postmodern matrix in my thinking. Suddenly I have to wrestle with the way such unavoidable realities like experience, culture, gender, and race affect the Gospel message – or better said, my understanding of the Gospel. This thought brings me to the theme of my post today.
Teaching Bible classes to teenagers may be the single most difficult duty of the church. Teaching Bible classes to teeangers after you’ve spent years in seminary simply complicates matters. But, recently, I have really been impacted by teaching these teenagers and I think the experience is teaching me alot about the Bible.
We are currently engaged in a short series of classes regarding the life of David. Because we’re only studying this topic over five or six weeks, we’re pretty much sticking to the bestknown stories.
Anyone who has ever taught a BIble class knows that the most difficult subjects to talk about are ones that we’ve heard a million times . . . what can we say they haven’t already heard before.
As I was preparing for last week’s class on David and Goliath in 1 Samuel 17, I faced that dilemma. They know everything about this story. They’ve heard it a million times (even our German exchange student who never goes to church knows this story). What am I to do with this story? Then I began thinking about what the story actually is. Because of my heritage it is difficult for me to see very far beyond the page. That’s when it hit me. Those of us from conservative Bible churches have a difficult time grasping the larger scope of what “God’s Word.”
The best I could come up with would have probably gotten me fired in nine out of ten churches of Christ (maybe I’ll be fired here when they find out, just kidding). I took the story of David and Goliath and made it into a Mad Lib – you know those stories where everyone offers an adjective, phrase, exclamation, whatever without realizing what the story is about and where it will fall in the writing.
The teens loved it! Especially when Goliath got hit in the nose with one of his 20,000 smooth stones he had picked up and exclaimed, “Holy Crap!” It was hillarious moment.
Now taken at face value, we changed the Bible. Goliath was carrying around a bazooka and some gernades if I remember right . . . but did we change anything? The message was still there loud and clear!
Our obsession with “inspiration” has, I think, caused us to miss the point of the Bible. We are so concerned with the derivation of Greek and Hebrew words that we sometimes miss the bigger picture – what postmodern theologians so fondly refer to as the metanarrative. That is what the BIble is all about. The story of God loving his creation so much that he would not be overcome by their choice to turn from. The story of him lovingly sending his only son to live and die and be brought back to life so that the creation could be redeemed. It’s the story of how life has meaning and how hope is not far from anyone.
Through our obsession with the “written word” we have missed so much that the Spirit is saying right next to those words. If only we would admit how much the Catholics had to do with finalizing the Bible that we have, maybe then folks in our strong Protestant groups wouldn’t be so obsessed with the actual ink and letters and could instead be falling in love with a God and a Savior who long for us to be part of His love story.
Our bickering over translations, definitions, and theology goes counter to Jesus’ prayer in John 17. If only we would strive for unity rather than correctiveness. If only we would allow grace to pervade as Jesus did. Wouldn’t the church be a different place. I know so many people who are scared to death of that comment . . . but afraid of what? That God’s Spirit may blow through this place as though never before?
A Gospel imparted through oration and story should never have been reduced to simply a book. It is the Living WORD! Not just a word on the page, but so much more than that. The word is alive . . . The Word is around us . . .