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Turning the Bible Into Behavior

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Blame Your Brain – The Reason You Do Stupid Things

Writer William Arther Ward once wrote: “Nothing limits achievement like small thinking; nothing expands possibilities like unleashed thinking.” In other words, what we think and the way we think will shape our worlds.

I read about a research study by a Dr. J. Haskins, who spent 12 years researching the effects of media on how people think. One study group listened to programs with negative news 5 minutes a day. The other group listened to more uplifting and positive news.

  1. The negative group was more depressed than before
  2. They believed the world was a negative place
  3. They were less likely to help others
  4. They began to believe that negative things would soon happen to them

Their concept of reality was shaped by their thoughts.

Please don’t misunderstand me – I’m not talking about some Neo-level world manipulation like in The Matrix.

 

But the things we focus on, dwell on, meditate on, will shape our realities and our course in life. Just ask any ad exec. Once they can get you hooked in your mind, the decision to buy it will quickly follow. What you put into your head become your reality.

 

Pastor Chip Ingram uses this to talk about our paths toward good or bad consequences.

stinkin thinkin

He says, “If you want life to dramatically change—to get out of a rut of destructive emotions or bad habits—it all begins with what goes into your mind.” Thus the Apostle Paul writes:

Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable—if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise—dwell on these things. (Philippians 4:8)

So what are you dwelling on? When you’re on a long drive, when you’re relaxing at home, when you’re channel surfing…what are you putting into your mind?

There’s an old expression that says: GARBAGE IN, GARBAGE OUT. If you fill your mind with garbage that’s what your life will be filled with. If you follow the Bible’s guidance, filling your mind and life with God-thoughts will produce good fruit.

So here are 4 quick tips to start filling yourself with good thoughts and to eliminate your stinkin’ thinkin’!

 

  1. Memorize/meditate on Scripture
  2. Use drive time to listen to something meaningful or to ponder deep truths
  3. Experience great art (visual, music, literature, etc.)
  4. Take walks to examine/appreciate God through nature

What about you? What are some ways you fill your mind with God-thoughts and eliminate negative thoughts? You can change your outcome and behavior by changing your brain!

Pizza Tastes Better Than Self-Control

Self-control is one of the primary characteristics of the Christian life. The Apostle Paul talks about it as an element of the fruit of the Spirit.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)

While a lot of people think that each of these elements are individual fruit, they are all part of the SAME fruit! A fruit tree only produces one kind of fruit. The Christian tree produces ONE fruit and it’s made up of these things. That means you can’t say you’ve got some fruit and not others. If you do well with love, joy, and peace but fail at self-control, your fruit ain’t ripe!

pizza manBut self-control is one aspect of our character development that we let fall to the wayside. In my words, it’s because pizza tastes better than self-control. In generic terms, our individual indulgences are more important to us than exercising discipline. The Bible compares self-control to a city’s walls:

Like a city whose walls are broken through is a person who lacks self-control. (Proverbs 25)

In the ancient world, the walls would prevent the enemy from coming and conquering the city. A break in the wall could mean devastation for the city. Similarly, when our self-control is not in place, we are wide open to attack from any indulgence or desire. Maybe food isn’t your weakness. Maybe it’s alcohol. Or your sexuality. Or your anger. Pick something – because I have confidence that most of humanity wrestles with self-control issues in SOME area of life.

But you can tackle your issues. John Maxwell talks about some ways to kick-start your journey towards self control.

  1. Start small: You don’t wake up one morning and go run a marathon. You train for it. Likewise, it’s okay to have small, measurable goals to begin your self-control journey.
  2. Be consistent: It’s amazing how small consistencies can produce big results. This month (February) I started a nationwide running challenge to run over 100 miles in the month. A group of us are doing it together. Running 100 miles on a Saturday isn’t very feasible for most of us. But running/walking 3.58 miles a day will get you to 100.24 miles in the month.

You CAN do it. Don’t be discouraged because of past failures. Get back on track. Hit the gym. Put the food down. Cut back on those indulgences. Discover joy in moderation.

Let your fruit ripen into something delicious.

 


How about you? What is it that causes your self-control to fly out the window?

My 5 Year Old Sucks at Theology

Of course she does, shes five! Lemme back up a sec…

The other night as I was putting her to bed and she asked one of THE questions in theology:

“Daddy, why did God make us?”

Now as we’re approaching the anniversary of the Protestant Reformation and as I was asked to write a piece on Soli Deo Gloria (glory to God alone),  my brain started thinking about how I could convey to a little girl the idea of God’s glory being the ultimate desire and design for humanity.

Glory of GodIn the end, I gave her a simple version of the Westminster Catechism, “Baby girl, God made everyone to glorify and worship Him.”

“No, Daddy, He made us to love each other and to be nice.”

Yeah, she wasn’t picking up what I was putting down. I’ll try again next year. But I wasn’t wrong. We ARE so that we can give God glory. It’s like the Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10:31 ~

“Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

Paul says this at the end of talking about the controversial topic of eating food that had been offered to idols. Not as big an issue for Western Christians in the 21st Century, but it was for Paul and the early church. But ultimately Paul called people to follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the individual conscience with the idea that Christian liberty allows us a wide range of activities…with one caveat.

Do everything to the glory of God!

And this is where we often come up short. Sure there are some areas we surrender and do to God’s glory. Other times, if we’re totally honest, our behavior does NOT glorify God. And this is a key point of the Reformation – not just that everything we do is for God’s glory, but that everything we do is ONLY for God’s glory. No one else is on equal footing. God alone should be the motivator of our thoughts and actions.

If we started to view our days through the lens of Soli Deo Gloria we’d probably change a lot of what we do.

  • Should I really post that on social media? Does it bring glory to God?
  • Should I really pass on this story about Jake that I heard from Sarah? Does it bring glory to God?
  • Should I really talk to my wife and kids like this? Does it bring glory to God?

An honest assessment shows up coming up short. Not only do we put other things before or equal to God, but even when it’s God alone our behavior doesn’t daily live for His glory.

Kind of depressing, actually, to thing of how often I miss the mark here. Thank God for His grace.

But that’s another Sola…

Christianity: Stupid Is As Stupid Does

stupid isEven people who have never seen Forrest Gump have heard the expression, “Stupid is as stupid does.” It’s the way Forrest’s momma teaches his that real stupidity is not in intellect or how others judge you. Stupid people are reveled through their stupid behavior. People who DO smart things ARE smart people. People who do stupid things…well, you get the idea. And that concept is not unique to stupidity. It’s a truism of many facets of life. If you want to know about the character of a person, look at his actions. His behavior will out the truth. Smart people are those who DO smart things. Careful people are those who practice safety and care. Friendly people are those who behave as friends. In his first letter, John says it’s no different with spirituality and righteousness.

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.

Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous.

Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God. 10 By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother. (1 John 3)

I think John would have us understand a few things here:

  • We ARE family!

It’s an amazing thing to think about. In a world where people are striving for connection, where we settle for the superficial “friends” of social media, we are invited into a community of faith that becomes our family. God welcomes us with open arms and says, “There is a place here for you.” But that means something more than just a place to belong.

  • Family begins to look and sound like each other.

One of the funniest parts about belonging to a community is that we take on the look and speech of that community. Each family will have its own peculiar lexicon that develops over the course of time and shared experiences. I remember one time my family went to Wendy’s for a meal. While my mom was in line, my younger brother (maybe 6 years old?), my dad, and I went to the corner table. My brother was climbing over and under the tables and came up suddenly and hit his head on the bottom of the table. Trying to communicate what happened, he cried, “I boomped my head!” Naturally we thought this slip was funny, and it became part of the family lexicon. 30 years later we will still say to each other, “I boomped my head (or arm, foot, etc.) when we get injured.

I read a fascinating article a while back (and if I ever find it again I’ll hyperlink it) that stated we sound like the 5 most important people in our social circles. That is to say, take the 5 people you spend the most time with, the people who have the most influence in your life, and you will find your dress and speech patterns are an amalgamation of those 5 people.

she's the devilThis is no different spiritually. Our spiritual family is supposed to change the way we look and sound. God’s family is supposed to do godly things. We turn our backs on ungodly behavior. To paraphrase Forrest Gump, righteous is as righteous does. We are called to turn our backs on ungodly behavior. We’re either part of God’s family or part of the devil’s family.

  • Finally, being part of God’s family is about MORE than personal righteousness – it includes taking care of each other.

The Bible is quite clear that we cannot be right with God if we are not actively loving and caring for humanity. If God is love, we cannot hate people and still maintain personal righteousness. There’s a unique spiritual blend – genuine righteousness means loving God AND loving each other. Any less is bogus spirituality. It’s a sham.

Think about your life. Have you actively been pursuing righteousness? Does your behavior identify you as part of God’s family? Do your actions towards others show that you are a child of God? If not, where do you need to change? How do your actions and speech need to change to reflect belonging to His family?

The Unbiblical Evil of the Alt-Right

White Supremacists March with Torches in CharlottesvilleFor nearly 24 hours now, Charlottesville, VA has been a hotbed of racial turmoil. Last night, white nationalists marched on the town’s campus of the University of Virginia. They chanted racist slogans and marched with burning torches.

If any part of that feels okay to you, you’re part of the problem. Yes, I understand that freedom of speech means that people are allowed to spew their garbage beliefs. I’m not talking about a legal perspective. I’m talking about a biblical perspective.

The Alt-Right, White Nationalists, Neo-Nazi, whatever-you-want-to-call-it movement is completely incompatible with biblical Christianity. In the second chapter of his first letter, John writes:

Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.

Additionally, the entire theological notion of the Imago Dei (Image of God) in humanity means that ALL people are created in God’s image. There is no ethnic group that is better than any other. I don’t have time to or space to cover all of the places in the Bible that CLEARLY point to the sin of racism and white nationalism. Let’s just end with Jesus’s golden rule:

Treat people the way you want to be treated.

There is nothing of God in the Alt-Right movement.

Nothing.


For more of my views on racism, check out other articles I’ve written...

 

Strong Black Christian Women: A Brief Response to Kyle Howard

woman-590490_1920Last week I read an article from Kyle Howard, a fellow contributor at Theology Mix. His piece was titled: When Churches Colonize Femininity, and looked at how the Western church (read white Protestant church) views femininity and how women who do not fit that view are regarded as unfeminine.

Mr. Howard’s article resonated with me not just because I am married to a strong black woman (SBW), but because there is a biblical foundation for his position that femininity is culturally based rather than biblically based. He writes:

The paradigm for femininity in most (if not all) majority culture churches is the model of the “white soft-spoken woman.” She has with her certain traits that are referred to as marks of piety when in reality they are elements of white culture. It’s not that “soft-spokenness” is inherently “white,” but the version of it that is expected to be expressed is often an idealized version of a white woman, typically akin to a white southern woman from the antebellum era. Men of color are told that this is the kind of woman they are to pursue if they desire a godly woman and to be considered relationally wise. Women of color are told that this is what they must be and that they are godly to whatever degree they reflect this image and immature to whatever degree they don’t. If they are opinionated, they are considered ungodly. Expressive or “loud,” ungodly.

Part of this problem is the continued misapplication of 1 Timothy 2, where tells Timothy that he does “not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet” (1 Tim. 2:12). While my piece is not going to be a deep dive into biblical egalitarianism, let’s just say that I believe Paul was not speaking for all women for all time and that the Bible is replete with examples of women in positions of authority and leadership (and many of the Evangelicals who hold tightly to Paul’s words about silent women ignore Paul completely about other issues that might affect them personally).

Still, this is the model that remains for much of the modern “majority church.” But it is culturally bound. Church across the world and throughout time have seen strong women step up to lead the church, the community, and the family. In black culture, it is not uncommon to find a female pastor leading a congregation. And she STILL preaches the gospel of Jesus. Imagine that!!!

I am married to a strong black woman who has multiple degrees in biblical studies, who has been a ministry leader, and who has preached gospel on the United States and abroad. The strength of her character or her willingness to voice her opinions DOES, in fact, intimidate people who are not accustomed to the SBW personality (when, in fact, my wife is quite tame compared to others). I’ve seen white women get teary admitting they are intimidated by my very kind and polite wife. Our majority culture embraces the idea that women ought to be passive. Any aggression or expressed opinion is seen as unseemly. A strong man is a leader. An equally strong woman is a…well, we have unkind words for her.

But biblically I think we are wrong to pigeon-hole women. Look at the ideal woman pictured in Proverbs 31:

An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life. She seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands. She is like the ships of the merchant; she brings her food from afar. She rises while it is yet  night and provides food for her household and portions for her maidens. She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard. She dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong. She perceives that her merchandise is profitable. Her lamp does not go out at night. She puts her hands to the distaff, and her hands hold the spindle. She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy. She is not afraid of snow for her household, for all her household are clothed in scarlet. She makes bed coverings for herself; her clothing is fine linen and purple. Her husband is known in the gates when he sits among the elders of the land.

She makes linen garments and sells them; she delivers sashes to the merchant. Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come. She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and call her blessed;  her husband also, and he praises her: “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.” Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates.

This is not a passive woman. No! This is a hard-working caretaker and entrepreneur! The Proverbs 31 woman is one who gets things done. And since were looking at a passage that comes from the Middle East, we’re literally talking about a Strong Brown Woman (SBW).

So when it comes to women in the church, we ought to discard the idea that outspoken, type A women are less feminine and desirable than those who are quiet and submissive. Let us look beyond culture norms of femininity and recognize that God has gifted women of all personality types to be part of His kingdom.

Besides, who knows when you’ll need a Deborah to come rescue your butt from the enemy?  😉

Facepalm Jesus

Some people just don’t get it. They SHOULD get it but, for whatever reason, they simply don’t get it.

The disciples are those kinds of people. Even though these are the guys who follow Jesus around and are his closest companions, the Gospel stories show time and again that they just.don’t.get.it.

I can imagine Jesus dealing with them. They say or do something so ridiculous he can’t sokkahelp but facepalm. We see one of these instances in Mark 8,

In those days, when again a great crowd had gathered, and they had nothing to eat, he called his disciples to him and said to them, “I have compassion on the crowd, because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. And if I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way. And some of them have come from far away.” And his disciples answered him, “How can one feed these people with bread here in this desolate place?”

Here we start the facepalm. The scenario is eerily similar to the earlier story where Jesus fed 5,000 people with loaves and fish. This has led some people to conclude that there were two versions of the story circulating in Mark’s time, and that Mark mistakenly included both. While this might be a viable possibility for some people, it fails to account for two things: 1) the standard Christian understanding of the inspiration of Scripture and 2) the differences between the stories actually set up different points/purposes of each narrative.

As to our understanding of inspiration, our belief that the Bible has Divine origin and spark within it means that there is a godly intentionality that underlies the text. Our concept of inspiration is not something that can be proven or disproven by science – it’s a statement of faith. If you don’t believe it, I can’t convince you otherwise.

As to the different points of each narrative, that is more easily demonstrable. The first story highlighted Jesus as a new Moses. The people sat in groups in the wilderness just as Moses and the Israelite nation split into various groups/camps in the book of Exodus. Jesus providing his crowds echoes God providing for Israel in the desert.

By the time we get to the second story here in Mark 8, the story is set against the first story, almost as a check on learning for the disciples. Picture Jesus saying, “You were with me the first time. What’s gonna happen here and now?”

But the disciples fail the quiz. “Where can we get enough bread?!?”jesus-facepalm

And he asked them, “How many loaves do you have?” They said, “Seven.” And he directed the crowd to sit down on the ground. And he took the seven loaves, and having given thanks, he broke them and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; and they set them before the crowd. And they had a few small fish. And having blessed them, he said that these also should be set before them. And they ate and were satisfied. And they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full. And there were about four thousand people. And he sent them away.

In addition to some of the numerical details being different in the stories (numbers of bread, fish, and people) Jesus is in a different location. While he spoke to Jewish people in the first narrative that had echoes of Moses and the Exodus, here Jesus is working in a Gentile area. Jesus’s ministry and blessing extends beyond the Jews and is for Gentiles as well. That Jesus extends his ministry to non-Jews is brought up previously when the Syrophoenician woman approaches him for help. Just as before, Jesus is able to abundantly bless and provide for those who follow him.

And immediately he got into the boat with his disciples and went to the district of Dalmanutha. The Pharisees came and began to argue with him, seeking from him a sign from heaven to test him. And he sighed deeply in his spirit and said, “Why does this generation seek a sign? Truly, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.”

Cue the facepalm. Immediately after performing this incredible things, the religious leaders come and ask for a sign. When Jesus says that no sign will be given, part of me wonders if he’s really saying, “There’s not sign that you will recognize.” Jesus HAS been giving signs, but people are too blind to see what is right in front of their faces.

And he left them, got into the boat again, and went to the other side. Now they had forgotten to bring bread, and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. And he cautioned them, saying, “Watch out; beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.” And they flatbreadbegan discussing with one another the fact that they had no bread. And Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why are you discussing the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” They said to him, “Twelve.” “And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” And they said to him, “Seven.” And he said to them, “Do you not yet understand?”

And the disciples continue in their blindness. They have seen Jesus provide in times of need, and they continue to fret about their lack. So Jesus warns them about being like the Pharisees. “I’m giving you stuff, but are you going to stay blind, too?!?” So Mark gives us a miracle story that acts as a living parable, illustrating his whole point.

And they came to Bethsaida. And some people brought to him a blind man and begged him to touch him. And he took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village, and when he had spit on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, “Do you see anything?” And he looked up and said, “I see people, but they look like trees, walking.” Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he opened his eyes, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. And he sent him to his home, saying, “Do not even enter the village.”

After his initial encounter with Jesus this blind guy sees, but only in part. It’s kind of like the religious leaders and disciples. They should be able to see Jesus clearly, but clearly they can’t! Jesus might as well be a walking tree in front of them. So Jesus touches the guy again and he finally sees clearly. Cut to the disciples:

And Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. And on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” And they told him, “John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.” And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.” And he strictly charged them to tell no one about him.

FINALLY! Peter’s vision is clearing up and he sees Jesus for who he is.

He.Is.The.Christ.

This is the Gospel message for Jews and Gentiles alike. This Jesus is the one who came to provide abundant life, even when we’re in the wilderness. This Jesus is the one to lead the new exodus, taking these slaves into the spiritual promised land. Don’t miss the signs that are right in front of you. Don’t mistake the people for trees.

Here is our King.

Settle for More – a Christian perspective from the new @MegynKelly book

megyn-book-cover-529x800Friends who know me know that I’m not really a fan of FoxNews. While I am theologically conservative, I tend to lean more to the left than Fox does when it comes to social issues and politics. That being said, I have not spent a lot of time watching Megyn Kelly on Fox. But I saw that she had a book published, Settle for More, and saw an interview she did regarding the book. Then, by chance, our base library had a copy of it on display. That’s when I thought I’d pick it up and give it a read.

I will admit that it is not what I thought it would be. After all, Ms. Kelly is hardly older than I am. How could she possibly have a memoir? Additionally, I knew that a good portion of her book was dedicated to Donald Trump. A book on Trump doesn’t really seem like it’s memoir-worthy. But the book wasn’t just about Trump. It wasn’t just about Megyn Kelly. The book really was about the last year of Megyn Kelly’s life under fire from the Trump organization/followers, her response to it, and the life that brought her to the point where she responded the way she did. In short, it’s an apologetic

From her telling, Ms. Kelly has endured quite a bit from Trump and his followers. The book gets into a bit of the details. In fact, the last fourth of the book is all about her chaotic experiences with Trump. But the first three-fourths of the book set up the reader to understand the life that gave Ms. Kelly the convictions and determination that allowed her to deal with the hardships of her past year.

She had dealt with bullies as a child. She endured the sudden death of her father when she was a teen. She worked diligently in college and law school. She went through a divorce. All of the negative experiences in her life prepared her (ultimately) to deal with the Trump organization and the grief of her last year. She sums up her attitude in this paragraph:

Adversity is an opportunity, and one that has allowed me to flourish. It has made me stronger, my skin a little thicker. And as with any turmoil in your life, none of it is for nothing if you survive it and take stock.

And THAT is a principle that we would all do well to learn. It’s what the Bible is teaching believers when James writes:

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4)

There is more to our suffering than simply suffering. There is something that happens within us when we endure suffering – we grow. We learn. Get get better. We get stronger. Let’s not be naive, sometimes this world tears us down. Plenty of faithful believers have gone to their graves without ever seeing an end to their suffering. This is where our hope that comes from our faith plays a big role in enduring troubles.

One day the trouble will cease. One day the pain will end. Revelation 21:4 proclaims:

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.

When you go through difficult times, please know that you’re not the only one. Others have gone before you. Others walk with you. And people will endure hardships until this world passes away. But hold fast, knowing that God is working something within you. He may not remove the troubles, but you can be changed for the better because of them. And one day, God will ease all of your troubles.

Come, Lord Jesus.

If You Don’t Read the Bible You Don’t Have to Live By It.

Today I read an article titled, “Less Than Half of Christian Americans Read the Bible.” In fact, only 37% of self-proclaimed Christians pick it up on a regular basis. This is a real problem for Christian culture – a culture that is dependent upon sacred Scripture. More and more, our contemporary culture is turning away from the text as THE authority for a Christian’s life and thought.

american-football-referees-1476038_1280In his article, “Inerrantism as Narcissism: Biblical Authority as a Cultural Problem,” James Moseley points out that authority is a term of relationship and not of some special property. That is to say, whenever one claims authority, the people under that claim must agree, even if silently, that the claimant does indeed have authority! In a football game, if the players refuse to do what the referee says, does the referee have any actual authority? No – the players and coaches agree to the idea that the referees are in charge of enforcing the rules.

Authority, then, is the ability to influence the thought and actions of others when those particular others have agreed to submit to the influencing agent. This is especially true regarding matters of faith. The term Christian carries with it (or should carry with it?) the notion of one who lives under Scriptural authority.

The conservative and liberal camps often argue how the Christian Scripture is authoritative, but I would venture to say that the average Christian acknowledges some manner of Scriptural authority. Scripture does not contain any authority in and of itself. It is authoritative because of the authority which backs it up. That is to say, the authority of God is exercised through Scripture. Technically, then, God is ultimately authoritative Scripture possesses a secondary or delegated authority. Scripture, though, pushes that authority upon the believer. There is a relationship between text and disciple and authority is given and received when the believer confesses that Scripture is the Word of God. This is the crux of the matter for the Christian and Scriptural authority. Scripture is only authoritative through faith. One cannot prove Scripture’s authority to a non-believer using rational arguments.

Any confession of faith that results in authority yields both a sense of identity and a set of norms for faith and practice. It is the sense of identity that allows one to claim the title Christian, Muslim, or Jew. But with that confession (and thus the title) comes a set of norms for thought and action, i.e. any claim must be accompanied by life characterized by the claim. The confessing Christian acknowledges that the one true authority is God, yet the confession also acknowledges that God has revealed himself through human words. These human words form the norms and standards for that confession.

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Bible Study

But when people claim the title “Christian” and accept the sense of identity without accepting the set of norms we speak of them derogatorily as “nominal Christians.” This nominalism has led many biblical scholars, theologians, and pastors to proclaim a modern crisis of biblical authority. The expression “crisis of authority” assumes that Scripture should be normative for Christian thought and behavior. Indeed “Christian praxis” without the “Christian” is merely social action or moral behavior. “Christian praxis” without the “praxis” is merely mental assent to the possibility of the Christian God without allowing God to possess any practical power or authority to influence believers.

We know more about the Bible than ever before yet there is a disconcerting lack of use of the Bible in everyday life. Scripture holds a special place in the Christian heart but sees little real function in terms of influence. Lutheran theology in particular seems to emphasize the influential and functional use of Scripture a mainstay of their theology, thus combating this lack of regular use. Scripture is not simply a repository of past revelation but is a current Word of God for the church with immediate authority.

The application of this theology could be one of the most difficult aspects of Scriptural authority. While most Christians acknowledge the theoretical functionality of Scripture, allowing Scripture to be the major influencing force in life and thought is difficult. When we flat out refuse to allow our lives to be molded by the text, we have rejected the authority of the text.

Yes, Christianity exists beyond the text. People followed God before it was written. Cultures without a written language still follow Yahweh. But the Christian faith was born into a textual relationship, understanding that God revealed Himself through the Old Testament and continued to reveal Himself through the inspiration recorded in the New Testament. A Christianity devoid of Sacred Scripture is not an authentic Christianity at all, but a cheap replica that desires to hold to the “nice” elements of faith without being accountable to the Word of God.

And that’s not okay.

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