Deconstruction Zone #1: The Bible

Michigan Week has begun here in Columbus. Ohio State versus Michigan. Number one versus Number two. Winne goes to the National Championship. Winner wins the Big Ten title outright. How exciting is this? I was in Chicago this weekend for the Northwstern game. It was fun going to a new stadium. We’re going to try to his a Big Ten road game every year. We’re thinking Happy Valley next year!

OK . . . we’ve gotten the ball rolling with this deconstruction stuff. If it is a new concept for you, I hope the previous post made a little sense. I had the following illustration come to mind this week that I think makes alot of sense (which probably means it doesn’t). [If you haven’t seen the move The Village and don’t want to spoil the ending, please skip the remainder of this paragraph.] I think The Village has a great message about deconstruction (and religion in general). As you watch it, the movie takes place in a differe time period. It is a small, isolated village that is remiscent of early colonial America. They are run by a council of elders who make all the important decisions for the community. It is a lovely place to live, except for the presence of these scary alien-esque beasts. The community is led to fear these beasts very much (there is a great message in this about religion in general, but I’ll save that discussion for another day). The climax of the movie happens as one of the main characters is stabbed by another townsmen and greatly needs simple medicine that is unavailable in the village. They send out a young blind woman to “the towns” to find the medicine. She comes to a big wall, and jumps over the gate . . . and she jumps right over into modern time . . . it turns out The Village doesn’t take place hundreds of years ago, but instead is about a colony of people who moved to a protected wildlife area that no one knew about. Once that revelation is made, the entire point of the movie changes. It changes everything. That is deconstruction. When everything changes. It is just like the Sixth Sense (another spoiler here – seriously, have you not seen that movie yet?) When you realize that he’s been dead the whole time – the entire movie changes.

That’s what deconstruction does. It totally shifts the understanding of everything that you thought you knew. However, in a movie it’s just called a twist. When it comes to deconstructing our thought process and philosophy you realize that at every corner there is a twist.

OK . . . so today I begin to get specific. This will be a great stretch for some of you . . . here’ s where the heresy labels begin to fly.

I’ve chosen to begin with the Bible. How we understand the Bible stands at the center for evangelicals. We want book, chapter, verse, whether we’re looking for precedence, principle, or a direct command, the Bible is our centerpiece. That, in itself, however, is a construct. Is that what the Bible is meant to be? A guide book? A manual?

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteoussness so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3: 16 – 17

If you don’t know that verse inside and out, you probably did not grow up in an evangelical church. That is our bread and butter, so I figured it was a good place to begin this discussion. It was ingrained in my head early on that this Bible verse was all the evidence that you needed to know that everything that falls between the bonded leather cover of my gold tipped pages is straight from the mind of God. It is what he wanted for me to know so that I could be more like him. I still has an empathetic ring in my ear. It still sounds like a good idea. Where I have been led in recent years has really shook this mode of thinking (Note: deconstruction may not result in completer overhaul here and there, but the road map to getting there is suddenly written in a different language, with different symbols, and in a differerent dimension). Here’s a few lain out as simply as I know to:

* 2 Timothy is a letter written from Paul to Timothy. It was a personal letter and nowhere within the confines of the letter are we told that this was ever to be shared with anyone else. These are simply Paul’s admonitions to Timothy.

* At the time it was written, “All Scripture” would have had to have meant the Old Testament to the original audience. It could have in no way included the actual letter that contained those words, or any of the other New Testament “books.”

* It took several hundred years for the Bible to be compiled together in the form that we now have it, and there was great debate, discussion, and disagreement about what should be included and excluded – Revelation barely made it. I’m no conspiracy theorist, this is just historical fact.

* We have constructed the following guidelines that are nowhere included in Scripture to keep our “doctrine” regulated:
* God was involved in the assembling and putting together of the BIble’s books and authors and literature.
* “Inspired” scripture is limited to 66 books of the Bible. It’s just not in the BIble. It doesn’t say that!
* The canon is closed. It never claims that one for itself either.

I believe that narrative theology is rescuing the church from these problems. The Bible should a special place to us for many reasons. It has been upheld by millenia of church tradition. Particularly the Old Testament, has been upheld as unique writing for so many years by so many people. While there are no claims widely spread to cover all of the 66 of the Bible, some of those writings to claim special attention to these words (like the aforementioned 2 Timothy passage). There is an amazing reliability found in these ancient texts. These texts have been tested unlike any other text. I would hardly suggest adding or taking away from “a canon” with material less reliable than we already have.

Narrative theology has moved the emphasis to the story Scripture tells. It seems to me to be more in line with what the God of Israel was all about. God’s chief directive to his people throughout was to “Remember the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, and David.” And not just that he is their God, but all the amazing things that happened throughout that time. Remember what he has done, and, to do that, you need to hear, read, tell the story.

Seeing the story in Scripture is difficult if you are accustomed to scouring the text for directives, commands, and specifics. Those things all are there, but they fall within the story rather than the story being guided by them. Bringing a story of life and love and grace to lost people is much more inviting and promising than bringin them a set of guidelines, directives, and commandments. The latter has hijacked the public image of Christianity and I am firmly committed to reinvigorating the public image of faith as a storytelling community that holds fast to a pure lifestyle, and commits to life in the full that Jesus came to give – and he came to give it to all.

When the Bible becomes more like a story book breathing meaning and purpose into the lives of all that read it instead of a Law book restricting and condemning and controlling, then I think we’re headed in a healthier direction.

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2 thoughts on “Deconstruction Zone #1: The Bible

  1. I see what you’re saying…however, to play Devil’s Advocate (another movie with a twist, but I digress), doesn’t this leave it wide open for the Joseph Smiths of the world to declare their gospels as part of God’s Word? If that’s the case, everything imaginable is up for debate on being “God breathed”, and therefore every hairbrained “religous” thought to be deemed God’s word? Yes, I know that discernment comes into play here, but don’t you think God had something to do with the Bible (as we know it) being put together?Feel free to discuss/address.YOU HERETIC!!!

  2. Adam,I was fortunate to spend the last year in a church where many of the people use narrative theology. However, many of your readers may not be so lucky. You might want to explain what that means a little more.As to what Mark said, I think there is a balance that is difficult to reach. On the one hand, there is Faith that the Bible as we know it was guided by the Holy Spirit. On the other hand, there is faith in the Bible that is mistaken for faith in God.

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