Monday, January 12, 2009

Who Needs the Bible?

Unfortunately this is the day when subjective religious experience is the trendy thing.  It is common to hear evangelicals use language like, "God told me", "I got a word from God", and my all time favorite, "the Lord led me to...". Our modern evangelical sensibilities seem to allow for any and all religious experiences validating them because, well...we had the experience!  No one can say anything against our own testimony right?  I am reminded of a man I once knew who humorously called attention to this lunacy by saying, "It must be the will of the Lord; it seems so right to me."  Of course, he said this with a wry smile and a twinkle in the eye.  We could never misread God, could we?  Certainly if we are sincere and totally committed to Christ (and throw in a little fasting and prayer), then God will talk to us directly right?

Being a minister has its advantages, not the least of which is the junk mail I get.  In recent days I keep getting junk email.  Recently I got a piece of junk email designed to excite and scintillate my spiritual senses.  The email promoted a meeting that I just have to attend if I want to be in God's will.  The tease came in the form of seminar titles:  "Direct Encounter with a Supernatural God", "Engaging the Revelatory Voice of God", and that can't miss seminar called, "The Breaker Anointing:  Releasing the Prophetic Breath of God."  Hey, this conference will tell me how to meet directly with God, get a revelatory word from God, and release the power of God's breath through my life.  Hey, when you have all of this, who needs the Bible?

Well, that's the problem.  The Bible now has become the manual for "whatever I want to find there."  I teach biblical hermeneutics in the college setting, and I find students often fall into the fallacy of "The Bible means what I want it to mean."  But students hold no corner on that mistake.  Students must line up behind pastors, youth ministers, deacons, and Sunday school teachers who do this regularly.  In fact, we have been "using" the Bible for years - we call it the priesthood of the believer (i.e. the Bible says what I think it says, and doggone it, nobody better tell me different, because I am a BAPTIST  who believes in the priesthood of the believer!  I'd like to have few words with whoever popularized, but prostituted, that oft maligned doctrine.) Where does the objective, propositional truth of God's Word come into play?  As Baptists get together to "share what the Bible means to me" (when in fact this is often a pooling together of our ignorance), when do we stop to do healthy exegesis of the text?  Doesn't the text mean what the author meant it to mean?  Shouldn't we find out what the author meant by the text before we apply the text to our lives?  I should think so.

Before we close this blog article I would like to lead us all in a prayer (Don't get excited, it's not the prayer of Jabez!).  "Lord, deliver me from trying to get information from You concerning things you have already spoken about in Scripture.  Keep me from such prideful thoughts that I can be absolutely right on everything at any one moment.  Dear Lord, forgive me for thinking I am smarter than the many Christians who came before me and some of who left good confessions, creeds, and biblical resources to help me study my Bible.  And Lord, teach me how to accurately and humbly study the Scriptures with good hermeneutical and exegetical techniques that I may see wondrous things from Your written revelation.  Then, dear Lord, give me the wisdom to see how all of this applies to my life, and give to me the grace to seek to apply Your truth to my life.  And finally, Lord, when I think the next time that I have a new revelation from You, please put cotton in my mouth to shut me up."  Amen

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