Monday, January 23, 2012

Bible Thumping Christians

I have heard a number of people I respect told recently that they don't hold the bible in the proper esteem or that they completely ignore it.  I know better than to fight their fights, but I do know that I want to state my own view on the subject.

I am the very model of a modern major general . . . oops.

I take great pride in calling myself a Bible Thumping Christian today.  I take scripture VERY seriously.  It is at the core of what I believe and what I desire for life and all of creation.  I don't think there is any of scripture that is not useful for teaching and learning and talking about.  I don't think there's anything in there that's just a waste of words. Actually my feelings on those words is what I think makes me able to claim that title of "Bible Thumper."

I love language.  I took Chinese, Latin, Italian, Spanish, and German in school.  And then when I made it to seminary I was so addicted to Greek that I was named our schools language scholar and got into regular long winded discussions with my language professors.  I started trying to find as many ancient Greek texts as I could from all areas.  Trying to find how words may have been used outside of scripture.  I started looking at the little nuances of words and phrases, not taking even the "best" English translations at face value.  I picked apart words, trying to make it all make more sense, trying to see what it is that scripture could teach me about this God who I knew existed.

I knew tons about the world, I wrote my proof of God based on things I found in String Theory.  I saw a spirit moving in people and throughout the world, but it is scripture that brings me back to God.  Scripture brings me to a place where I face the struggle, the epic struggle of humanity to be who we were created to be.  The struggle that makes us question how someone like David could be "after God's own heart."  The struggle that makes us wonder why God made a world so diverse that we actually have to work to be in community even when we're around people very much like ourselves.  The struggle that brings people into a church crying because they are desperate for God.  The struggle that makes us look at what is written in scripture and wonder what pieces are contextual, and what is really truly a universal truth.

Yes, I know this is the sensitive subject.  Yet we all claim some things are universal and others aren't.  We know that scripture is written in a certain time, and in many cases there is no debate also for a certain community.  We all teach about the specific problems in Judah, or Egypt, or Ephesus, or Corinth.  We know that was the context that these are created for originally.  We also know that the words that are chosen are specific and nuanced for those communities and even the best of us who translate betray the actual text to some extent.

This is especially true when you get into word studies.  Some words are used differently in law texts, social texts, religious texts.  Other words are only found in one type outside of scripture.  Some aren't found at all and we really start playing games to try to define them.  Do I think there is one meaning that HAS to be the meaning? Well in some ways yes, because there was an original context. Yet in other ways no, because it's really not that simple.  I will argue till I die that Pistis is best translated as Faithfulness, and that will influence everything I teach and lead because it changes how I interpret scripture.  That is the key for those of us who are claiming a title others want to keep away from us.  We are Bible Thumping because we value that text as something special, something that informs all we do, and is a key to our faith.  It is not the only key, but without it we do fall down, or at least I do. God Bless the Bible Thumpers.

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