The Contemporary Meme Bible

There are a LOT of memes going around with Bible verses. It hit me the other day that “the meme” has become a new dialect of contemporary culture. In the spirit of Martin Luther, who believed the people should have the Scripture available to them in their own tongue, I thought it would be fun (and hopefully funny) to make the CMB – the Contemporary Meme Bible. So I’m going to work my way through the Bible creating original memes for the major stories. Right now I’ve got Genesis-2 Samuel complete. I’ll include links to the text for those who want to read the biblical stories. So let’s get started.

Table of Contents

GENESIS: In the Beginning

Genesis 1 – Creation

Meme Bible - Genesis 1

Genesis 3 – Original Sin

Meme Bible - Genesis 3

Genesis 4 Cain & Abel

Meme Bible - Genesis 4

Genesis 6 – The Flood

Meme Bible - Genesis 6

Genesis 8 – The Flood

Meme Bible - Genesis 8

Genesis 11 – The Tower of Babel

Meme Bible - Genesis 11

Genesis 18 Abraham & Sarah

Meme Bible - Genesis 18

Genesis 19 – Sodom & Gomorrah

Meme Bible - Genesis 19

Genesis 21 – Sarah & Hagar

Meme Bible - Genesis 21

Genesis 22 – Abraham & Isaac

Meme Bible - Genesis 22

Genesis 25 – Jacob & Esau

Meme Bible - Genesis 25

Genesis 27 – A Father’s Blessing

Meme Bible - Genesis 27

Genesis 29 – Leah & Rachel

Meme Bible - Genesis 29

Genesis 32 – Jacob Wrestles with God

Meme Bible - Genesis 32

Genesis 37 – Joseph and his Coat of Many Colors

Meme Bible - Genesis 37

Genesis 39 – Joseph in Potiphar’s House

Meme Bible - Genesis 39

Genesis 41 – Joseph Interprets Pharaoh’s Dreams

Meme Bible - Genesis 41

Genesis 42-45 – Joseph & His Brothers

Meme Bible - Genesis 45

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EXODUS: Let My People Go

Exodus 1 – Conflict in Egypt

Meme Bible - Exodus 1 (10)

Exodus 1:18 – An Evil King

Meme Bible - Exodus 1 (18)

Exodus 2:3 – Baby Moses

Meme Bible - Exodus 2 (3)

Exodus 2:10 – Baby Moses

Meme Bible - Exodus 2 (10)

Exodus 3:10 – God calls Moses

Meme Bible - Exodus 3 (10)

Exodus 3 – God talks to Moses

Meme Bible - Exodus 3

Exodus 7:13 – Pharaoh responds to Moses

Meme Bible - Exodus 7 (13)

Exodus 7-10 – The 10 Plagues

Meme Bible - Exodus 7-10

Exodus 12:12 – The 10th Plague

Meme Bible - Exodus 12 (12)

Exodus 12:33 – The Exodus

Meme Bible - Exodus 12 (33)

Exodus 14-15 – Crossing the Red Sea

Meme Bible - Exodus 14-15

Exodus 16 – Bread from Heaven

Meme Bible - Exodus 16

Exodus 18 – Jethro (Moses’ father-in-law) gives Moses advice…

Meme Bible - Exodus 18

Exodus 20 – The 10 Commandments

Meme Bible - Exodus 20

Exodus 32 – The Golden Calf

Meme Bible - Exodus 32

Exodus 32 – The Golden Calf

Meme Bible - Exodus 32 (15)

Exodus 40 – Building the Tabernacle

Meme Bible - Exodus 40

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LEVITICUS: Layin’ Down the Law…

Meme Bible - Leviticus 1

Leviticus 4: Sin Offerings

Meme Bible - Leviticus 4

Leviticus 11: Clean & Unclean Animals

Meme Bible - Leviticus 11

Leviticus 18: Unlawful Sexual Relations

Meme Bible - Leviticus 18

Leviticus 25: Kindness for the Poor

Meme Bible - Leviticus 25(35-46)

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NUMBERS: Seriously, How Many Times Do We Need to Take a Census?

Meme Bible - Numbers

Numbers 1: A Census

Meme Bible - Numbers 1

Numbers 11: The People of Israel Complain

Meme Bible - Numbers 11

Numbers 12: Aaron & Miriam Oppose Moses

Meme Bible - Numbers 12

Numbers 13: Spies Sent Into the Land

Meme Bible - Numbers 13

Numbers 20: Moses Strikes the Rock

Meme Bible - Numbers 20

Numbers 22: Balaam’s Donkey Speaks

Meme Bible - Numbers 22

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DEUTERONOMY: Here We Go Again…

Meme Bible - Deut

Deuteronomy 4:41-43 – Cities of Refuge

Meme Bible - Deut 5 (41-43)

Deuteronomy 6 – The Greatest Commandment

Meme Bible - Deut 6

Deuteronomy 9 – God’s Grace, Not Human Behavior

Meme Bible - Deut 9 (1-12)

Deuteronomy 14 – Rules on Tithing

Meme Bible - Deut 14 (22-29)

Deuteronomy 18:9-14 – Be Holy

Meme Bible - Deut 18 (9-14)

Deuteronomy 30 – Choosing Life or Death

Meme Bible - Deut 30 (1-10)

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JOSHUA: It’s About a Dude

Joshua 2 – Rahab & the Spies

Meme Bible - Joshua 2

Joshua 6 – The Fall of Jericho

Meme Bible - Joshua 6

Joshua 7 – Achan’s Sin

Meme Bible - Joshua 7

Joshua 10 – Long Days in the Army

Meme Bible - Joshua 10

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JUDGES: You Never Know What You’re Gonna Get

Meme Bible - Judges

Judges 1:27-36 – Failure to Complete the Conquest

Meme Bible - Judges 1 (27-36)

Judges 3 – Ehud, the Left-Handed

Meme Bible - Judges 3

Judges 4 – Deborah Takes Charge

Meme Bible - Judges 4

Judges 11 – Jephthah’s Daughter

Meme Bible - Judges 11

Judges 16 – Samson & Delilah

Meme Bible - Judges 16

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RUTH: If You Like It Then You Better Put a Ring on It

Ruth 1

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1 & 2 SAMUEL: God Turns a Prophet

1 Samuel 3 – God Calls Samuel
1 Samuel 4 – Philistines Steal the Ark
1 Samuel 8 – Israel Asks for a King
1 Samuel 13 – Saul Disobeys God
1 Samuel 15-16 – Saul Rejected as King
1 Samuel 17 – David & Goliath
1 Samuel 18-19 – Saul Vs. David
1 Samuel 24 – David Spares Saul’s Life
1 Samuel 28 – Saul & The Witch of Endor
2 Samuel 6 – David Dances Before the Ark
2 Samuel 11 – David & Bathsheba
2 Samuel 13 – David’s Messed Up Kids
2 Samuel 23 – David’s Mighty Men

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There you have it. Let me know which ones are your favorites. Feel free to share this post and the Meme Bible with others. I’ll put up Deuteronomy when it’s done.

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.

Leave Your Bible on Your Shelf

Image courtesy of -Marcus- at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of -Marcus- at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I recently read a blog post admonishing pastors to bring their physical Bibles to church and to stop using electronic media instead. You can read that blog here.

I’ve never written a post directly responding to another blogger, but I really felt that I had to this time. You see, I think that Dr. Barrett couldn’t be more wrong in his assessment of Scripture, technology, and culture – and the idea of reprimanding Christians based on his faulty assessment drives me up the wall.

Just so that you don’t think I’m some crazy, anti-Bible nut-job, let me write a couple sentences about myself. My first graduate degree was in Biblical Studies, where my Master’s work was on the authority of Scripture. My second graduate degree was in Pastoral Preaching. I am FULLY committed to the authority of Scripture in shaping the life, thought, and action of Christians. I am FULLY committed to preaching the truth of Scripture from the pulpit and not watering down the message and removing Jesus and his exclusive claims from God’s story. I have a deep love for the Bible. On my desk right now I have two Bibles (one English and one Greek New Testament). On my shelves I have 3-4 different translations, a Hebrew Old Testament, and two collector’s Bibles (a 1942 Bible produced for the Army and an 1895 printing of a Westcott and Hort Greek New Testament).

I love my Bibles. But the idea that using tech in the pulpit instead of one of my physical Bibles is doing damage is erroneous teaching and needs to be corrected. Dr. Barrett lists 5 “dangers” of using tech Bibles instead of print Bibles:

  1. A Different Message: the tablet represents many things besides a Bible. It represents apps, magazines, games, and much more. “A print copy of the Scriptures in the pulpit represents something far more focused and narrow: a visible symbol of God speaking to his people….”
  2. Biblical Illiteracy in the Pew: the tablet may…encourage biblical illiteracy in the pew. People won’t know where things are in their Bibles because no one is asking them to “turn to chapter such-and-such.” They fail to see the big picture of God’s story.
  3. Flesh and Blood: reading from a tablet removes the reality of having something “there”. As physical beings who gather in a tangible place, God is really with us as Lord of space and time. “This God has made himself known by sending his own Son in flesh and blood.”
  4. Visual Reminder: We risk the Word of God becoming lifeless when we take away the physical book. “And should an unbeliever walk in for the first time, would he know that we are a people of the book?”
  5. Nonverbal Communication: Carrying your Bible around with you communicates to others that you are a Christ follower. Forget the physical Bible and we lose our witness to the world.

Now let me tell you why he’s flat wrong:

  1. You cannot reduce the Living God to a symbol: If you believe that you need a visual symbol of God speaking to talk about God’s story then your god is too small. Yahweh cannot be contained or limited to a mere symbol. No matter what the delivery method, the power of the Gospel is not the literal word but in how the WORD of God pierces our hearts and souls. God can do that through a preacher who uses a print Bible, a Bible app, or an audio Bible while you listen to the Bible on CD.
  2. Biblical illiteracy goes far beyond what happens on a Sunday morning: There are many people who love God dearly and live their lives to conform with the desire and will of God but don’t know that Lamentations is somewhere after Leviticus. The Gospel is not about knowing the order of the books of the Bible. It’s not about being able to find a particular passage whenever asked. The Gospel is about surrendering our story to God’s story. In the history of the world illiterate people have usually outnumbered the literate. For the first1600 years of Christianity most people did not even own their own Bibles. It was only after the advent of the printing press and Reformation that it gradually became commonplace for families to own Bibles. Dr. Barrett’s accusations create a false superiority of literate Christians over illiterate Christians. It says that Christians in underdeveloped nations are lesser Christians because they can’t read the Bible or know the order of the books. This mindset actually does DAMAGE to the Gospel.
  3. A flesh and blood Savior does not necessitate a “flesh and blood” book: Jesus is the center of our faith – not the book. The Gospel is his story, not the black (or red) words printed on a page. The only flesh and blood that matters are HIS. Whether I am reading from the Bible or simply telling someone the story of Jesus, HE is all that matters, not the book. Books deteriorate, get torn, fall apart – but the Gospel will go on eternally.
  4. No visual necessary: as stated above, the hard-text is not necessary for telling God’s story. In fact, holding TOO tightly to being “people of the book” places too much emphasis on the printed word – it elevates the book to the status of idol! It creates two Bibles: the “real” Bible that is printed and the “faux” Bible that comes in other media. It does damage to the Gospel to create this dichotomy.
  5. Jesus didn’t tell his disciples that people would know them because they carried Bibles: he said that people would know they are followers of Jesus by their love. Behavior is more important than outward symbols. We’ve all seen people who wear crosses around their necks or tattoo a cross or fish on their bodies. It doesn’t make them Christian. I once heard a pastor state that wearing a cross doesn’t make you a Christian any more than sleeping in the garage makes you a car. Outward symbols do not mean anything about the condition of our hearts. I would rather people see Jesus in my character and behavior rather than because I lug around a book.

There is a real function to the sacred text. As Paul writes:

For everything that was written long ago was written for our instruction, so that we might have hope through the endurance and encouragement that the Scriptures give us. ~ Romans 15:4

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete and thoroughly equipped for every good work. ~ 2 Timothy 3:16-17

There is a real purpose to Scripture, and that purpose involves shaping and forming the believer. There is a relationship between the text and our life. There is nothing neutral in claiming the Bible as Scripture. The Bible must be “normative and life-shaping” because the writers were commissioned by God (whatever your view of inspiration). The divine voice demands response.

I do not impugn the authority of the text for Christian life and thought. We must not, however, substitute true authority, i.e. the story of God’s redemptive actions through human history, for cheap bibliolatry. The printing press was revolutionary technology in its day, giving the common person access to words never dreamed possible. Technology today is no different, giving us the Bible in new ways. But it isn’t really a new Bible, is it? It’s still God’s story – unchanged. And when we learn this then we can access HIS story through any means.

The Bible doesn’t change. We do.