As a pastor of 23 years I’ve experienced first hand in my life and the life of my congregants, the power scripture can have to change a life. I’ve also, though learned some ways to avoid this uncomfortable, potentially life disruptive change. So, because I care, I thought for the next ten blogs (excluding Stolen Man episodes of course), I’d share with you Pastormac’s top ten secrets to avoid being changed by scripture. Believing these things, and acting on them will insure you can stay comfortably mired in the same ruts and rules to which you’ve grown accustomed.
These are all myths of course, but as any literate person knows even myths have power. Cling to these, let nothing dissuade you from these and perhaps you can keep life neatly boxed around you. Mind you, I don’t guarantee your box will stay upright, but at least you won’t have scripture to blame if it falls apart.
The nice thing is that there are plenty of people to help you maintain these myths, if you only look for them. You don’t have to give up church or fellowship, just be selective about your fellowship, and avoid anyone who begins to tempt you with thoughts of scripture being useful, God-breathed, inspired, practical or challenging.
If, on the other hand, you are actually looking for change (it’s a strange disease that takes over once a year around this time), you can simply turn these around, but be warned once you start down that path, it’s hard to turn back to the comfortable apathy you’ve so carefully cultivated about God’s word up till now.
So without further ado. Here are
Pastormac’s top ten Secrets to avoid being changed by Scripture
(presented in good late night fashion in reverse order.)
10. Recognize translations are never good enough to actually give you the accurate meaning of scripture. You are not smart enough to understand the plain text. Rely on the experts who like to remind you that the original Greek is likely not what you thought it was.
Think about the reformation. What really changed Christianity and it’s impact on the world? Suddenly scripture was becoming available in living languages people actually read. The enlightenment brought education and the printing press and the reformation actually encouraged the hubris in people that they could read and possibly understand scripture in their own language. No more going to the Priest for expert opinion, no more relying on them to mediate for us with the one true Mediator. Suddenly Christianity became a religion for the populous, for the unclean, the unkempt and the masses. Could this really be what Jesus Christ could possibly have intended? Sure he hung out with and even chose as disciples those who were scorned by other rabbis. Sure he brought preaching out of the temple and onto the mountainside. But can you imagine the initiative Christians might take if they thought they could read scripture for themselves? If they believed God might enlighten them personally. Why they might stop relying on me and my fellow pastors to tell them what to do and when to do it. It would be a flurry of freedom and change in the churches. What would happen to our comfortable and reasonable argument that we left this church or that church because we weren’t being fed, if we actually saw the responsibility and ability for feeding ourselves?
It’s probably good then that most people seem to have this underlying suspicion that only those who can read Greek, who’ve been to seminary or study full time (which is what pastors must be doing the other six days a week, right?) can really understand scripture. Never mind that we live in a time of unparalleled scholarship in translation; that your typical free Bible is accurate enough to give you clarity on all but the most obscure ideas in scripture; that even the original Greek of scripture was rough, common and intended to be understood by non scholars. It’s probably better that people continue to believe the true mysteries of scripture are hidden behind foreign ideas and languages. Pastors have incentive to perpetuate this idea for their own power and congregants have incentive for their own accountability (or lack thereof), so if you want to remain unchanged by scripture, just continue to be sure you don’t really have all you need academically for life and Godliness. True, in 2 Peter 1:3, Peter says, God’s divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. but if you knew what the original Greek this passage actually says, you’d be forced to realize it says just what you thought it said in English and that could lead to all sorts of cognitive dissonance and accountability.
So better not to explore that whole original Greek thing.
Leave it to us pastors and experts. It’s safer that way.