Have we outgrown the Bible?

Sunday, November 23, 2014

I know a lot of Christians who say that the Bible has become boring to them. They've read it a zillion times. The lessons seem so familiar that they are self-evident at best, and frankly a lot of them can seem kinda regressive. Have they outgrown the Bible?

There was a time when the Bible was amazing. They drank up every word, and marked each page with rainbows of highlighter colors. The words were alive. But now it just seems as dry as a stick. What's wrong?

I'd like to propose that what they have outgrown is not the Bible, but rather a particular phase of moral development. They have outgrown the childhood stage which is focused on learning rules. There is also the teenager phase when we rebel against all those rule, but what I really want to talk about is the adult stage of moral development which I think is where many of us find ourselves.

When you are in the adult stage you recognize that the rule-focused stage is childish and overly simplistic. If you only know how to read the Bible like that, then the Bible will seem childish too. Fact is, most of us learn in church how to read the Bible in exactly this childish way. We learn to find what the "right" reading of Scripture is. There are a whole lot of people with PhDs who only read the Bible like that. There are a whole lot of pastors who teach that every Sunday.

That is, however, not what I see Jesus doing when he reads the Bible. Instead I see him questioning things. I see him innovating and creating. I see him constantly pushing people to think about things differently, pulling the rug out from under them. If we want to learn how to do that too, we need to learn how to be creative, how to innovate, not just how to memorize the rules. You might begin as a musician copying the notes from someone else's song, but really the goal is to make your own music. The same is true with following Jesus.

That is where the Bible, and in particular the way of Jesus, is supposed to take us. That means that Just as Jesus read an eye for an eye and said "hey that's pretty good I guess, but I have an even better idea..." we need to also catch the spirit of Jesus and be able to say our own "It has been said, but I say to you" statements where we blow the old religious ways of thinking out of the water with way better ones. Just as Jesus spoke to the cultural issues of his time, we need to have our own things to say to the problems of our day as well.

That's not moving away from Jesus, rather it is moving forward in the way he wants us to go. That's what we need to be trying to do. We will of course make mistakes along the way (as adults I hope we all know this by now), but that does not mean we should stop walking.
 There will of course always be those who are at an earlier stage of moral development who will freak out about this, and all I can say here is don't let those people drag you down and keep you from moving further along in the way.

To me that way of creative innovation sounds really exciting. It means we can be at the forefront of moral innovation in the world, breaking new ground. If we can read the Bible like that, like we see Jesus doing, then it becomes a totally different book. It becomes a source for creative moral innovation. It becomes a launchpad, rather than something that tethers us down.

The trouble I think is that we have learned to read the Bible in a way that works well when you are a moral-kindergartner, but that does not work as a moral-grownup. If we go to a church that is stuck there, then all we hear is that same kindergarten-morality message over and over, Sunday after Sunday, like Bill Murray in Ground Hog Day. If that's the case, then I have to say I don't blame people who leave church, if it is keeping them stuck, not challenging them to grow, to move forward in the way.

But it doesn't have to be like that folks. Christianity does not need to be stagnant and stuck. Following Jesus should be a revolution.

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4 Comments:

At 6:16 AM, Blogger kent said...

Have we outgrown the bible? I agree with your premise that in one’s journey with God, at least within western Christianity, there seems to be a movement of focus from rules of morality towards morality as an expression of love. I also agree that many get stuck along the way and never seek for more than what the majority of “churches” know and teach, which is rules based living. Where I differ in opinion is that the bible continues to hold uniform importance (albeit, using it differently) in the more “mature” stages of one’s faith journey.
The reason I have devalued the use of the bible in my relationship with God is really twofold:
1) I realize the lenses that I use to evaluate information are very affective in allowing me to see exactly that which I want to see.
2) Knowledge of God, love, is intuitive (heart-based) in nature, and therefore cannot be learned by cognitive (teaching/reading) means.
It’s funny how we have this innate ability to view ourselves as being unbiased and impartial when it comes to our understanding of “the facts” while, at the same time, viewing everyone who disagrees with our “truth” distorted by their own paradigms. Having come to understand the power these lenses have to pervert my own truth, and since my truth has been constructed by taking in information through these lenses, I have become skeptical of using the bible or any cognitive format as a guide for knowing who God is and what it means to follow him.
The fact that I now see knowledge of God as being intuitive in nature comes from experience, and although it makes perfect sense to me, I realize that this “truth” is not necessarily pure because it has been filtered by my lenses in evaluating and categorizing intuition into rational thought. The point is that, when it comes to love, there seems to be a “knowing center” that is deeper than or proximal to the mind. I believe that the revelation of God is perceived at the level of the heart and not the mind. The perception of revelation is vulnerable to distortion on the way to the brain, so to speak, but nonetheless the heart is the realm of contact with God. So, it makes more sense to me to allow this intuitive knowledge to mold one’s paradigm/lens than it does to allow cognitive knowledge to do it. Once we do this, then God’s revelation, love, becomes our paradigm, and all cognitive knowledge is evaluated through the lens of love. Maybe this is what Paul was writing about in 1 Corinthians 13 when he discusses the coming of perfection/maturity. Maybe this isn’t about end times but about us coming to know love and maturing into a state of being that is dominated by the intuitive (heart) and not the mind.

 
At 12:45 AM, Anonymous Derek said...

Hey Kent,

"Knowledge of God, love, is intuitive (heart-based) in nature, and therefore cannot be learned by cognitive (teaching/reading) means"

One thing to consider then is that perhaps we could learn to read the Bible with our hearts rather than our heads. In other words, rather than reading the Bible for the purpose of getting instruction (not that that's bad) we instead read it in order to have an encounter with the living Christ through it's pages.

There's been many times that I have been reading Scripture devotionally and really felt God speak to me through it. I think lots of Christians do. That's when we get out our highlighters and write in the margins "YES!" Then Scripture becomes a window through which we can have a living encounter with God.

"Having come to understand the power these lenses have to pervert my own truth, and since my truth has been constructed by taking in information through these lenses, I have become skeptical of using the bible or any cognitive format as a guide for knowing who God is and what it means to follow him."

Yes, the reality is that everything we do is always biased for us humans. We are not capable of knowing anything absolutely. That does not mean we should not seek truth, it just means we need to do so with humility, and with the understanding that we will never be "done" seeking and growing. So I don't think we need to jettison the whole "cognitive" thing, just see it in a more realistic adult way. Our minds, just like our hearts are important tools we have. Both are fallible, since they are our hearts and minds. Since we are fallible we need to fully use our minds and our hearts and all we have to try to love the best we can.

"Where I differ in opinion is that the bible continues to hold uniform importance (albeit, using it differently) in the more “mature” stages of one’s faith journey."

I don't know that we disagree on that actually. The Bible is the vehicle that brings us to Christ. Christ is the end goal. Scripture is the servant that brings us to Jesus our Lord. There are lots of vehicles to bring us there. So if some other vehicle is bringing you there (say prayer, loving others, etc.) then that's great.





 
At 1:03 AM, Anonymous Derek said...

"So, it makes more sense to me to allow this intuitive knowledge to mold one’s paradigm/lens than it does to allow cognitive knowledge to do it. "

What I would say is that we should allow experience to mold our paradigm/lens over our theory or ideology. Or to state it differently, our cognitive understanding should derive from the reality of our experience, it should be based in reality.

Is that sort of what you are saying? Or am I misunderstanding you?

 
At 6:53 PM, Blogger kent said...

Hey Derek,
I very rarely study the bible anymore, if at all, because I can actually feel my paradigm bending everything into focus consistent with my prior held beliefs. I understand that we cannot avoid the cognitive, but I feel the intuitive (heart) is a more pure way of understanding reality because it functions at the level of the subconscious/spirit and not conscious/mind, if that makes sense. The way I see attainment of knowledge is either through intuition (heart-metaphysical knowledge) or cognition (mind-all other knowledge). The deep seated knowing that we get from intuition is unaffected by our paradigms until our minds want to categorize it. It's that understanding one has of truth that he knows that he knows, but he's not sure how he knows. Whereas, the cognitive is never not filtered by our paradigms. Does that make sense? So, if I allow myself to be led by my heart (intuitive), I feel I am more likely to be changed by truth than if I'm led by cognitive learning that is corrupted by my present paradigm. Now, I do agree that both intuitive truth and cognitive truth can affect our paradigms, thus changing (hopefully for the better) our view of truth. I think this is your point about allowing experience to mold our lens, and that I definitely agree with this although I don't know if I'm comfortable with the word experience. Seems to me experience and intuition are two different things.
I appreciate your blog and book(s) - I soon will have Disarming Scripture on kindle. I like the way you think. . . most likely because we seem to use a lot of the same lenses with which to see. : )

 

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