Rigorous and Charitable
The Bible is not written to you, but it is for you, and about you.
Klyne Snodgrass, a professor of mine at North Park Theological Seminary probably said that to me (and every other student at NPTS) a hundred times. Klyne is one of the hardest working people I’ve met, and one of the hardest professors: he demands a lot from his students, any student of Klyne’s will tell you that taking a class of his means that you are in for a lot of late nights, thick books, and careful hard work. He’s not power hungry, or sadistic, he wasn’t trying to torture us lowly brained Seminarians to see which of us would fold under the academic pressure. No, none of that. He just wanted us to learn, and he knew that things worth learning come with hard work. When I think of what it means to approach the Bible “rigorously” a mental image of Klyne appears in my mind. Because with him, there was no cutting corners, no passing easily over tough questions; every avenue must be explored, no stone unturned.
Klyne knows that there is distance between us and the original authors and readers of the various books of the Bible. They don’t live in the same world, they don’t write in the same language, they don’t have the same things going on that we do. That’s what he means when it he says the Bible is not written “to you.” But Klyne knows that the Bible has incomparable significance and authority in our life and that the Bible is about a God who is pursuing His people, securing for them a hope and a future, and living with them in the midst of waiting for that future. We, you and I, God’s church, we are that people. That’s what it means that the Bible is FOR you, and ABOUT you. It is for God’s people (us) and about God’s people (us.)
All of that means that it is worth working to learn about the Bible. Rigorous, is nothing to be afraid of. But it’s also worth being charitable. Because we are going to get it wrong, so we might as well approach the Bible with some humility and some grace. I’ve never met someone who knows so much about the Bible approach it with the amount of humility that Klyne does.
In our culture we are often scared of anything “hard.” We are conditioned to want easy, cheap, fast. But it’s counter intuitive, because we all know from experience that the best things come with the most effort. We also want to be “right.” We want to know we are right, that everyone who disagrees is wrong, and that there is no grey area in the middle.
Christianity is lived between the tensions of being “right” and knowing we don’t have all the answers. The tensions of reading the Bible for the sheer joy of having God’s word available to us and doing the work that it demands we do. Christianity is lived in being Rigorous and Charitable.
When I think of reading the Bible “rigorously” Klyne pops into my head, when I think of reading the Bible “charitably” Klyne pops into my head. I hope you know someone that embodies both those things together, because you will see that where they coexist there is something special and beautiful happening. I hope you have a desire to embody both those things in yourself.
I don’t know where you are at in your Bible reading life; maybe you are at the first step, just opening it up, maybe you having been reading the Bible for 50 years. I do know that the Bible is incredible, and whether it’s your first time to sit with it or the millionth time, it’s worth trying to be both rigorous and charitable. Don’t be afraid of the work, its good work. Don’t be afraid to be humble, its ok to hold things with an open hand.
Enter into week 3 of our Family Advent Devotional here
Consider How You Read The Scripture
Charitably – Recognizing different interpretations on matters not central to core Christian beliefs; Emphasizing “Life Together” in Christ as our unifying bond.; Holistically – Interpreting a passage within the context of the whole of Scripture; Understanding that no single passage is by itself the word of God.
QUESTIONS: What would you say are the five core beliefs of your faith? What are some examples of things that people disagree about that might not be core? How might you or someone else have taken a piece of scripture out of context?
Dwell In the Scripture
For the third week, lets read the story of the first Christmas. Invite the Holy Spirit to bring freshness in this passage. Read the passage slowly and preferably out loud. Read or listen to the Christmas Story
QUESTIONS: : What word or phrase stood out to you (it might be different from last week, it might be the same)? What are some ways that story connect into the rest of the Bible – Old and New Testament? Is there anything in the passage that you think Christians might differ on? Is there a non-core area that you would divide over?
Move With the Scripture
QUESTIONS: From what you’ve heard and shared, what do you believe God wants you to do? How are you going to do it this week?
Enter fully into Advent this year. Enjoy the journey with us as we seek to be a people who are shaped by the grand story of God and his people.
Peace, hope and love
Noah and Doug