Tune up Tuesday is my day for catching up on series I never completed, or other bloggy promises I may have made.
First up: We complete the two remaining chapters of my top ten ways to avoid being changed by scripture. If you’d like, you can start with number ten, by clicking here, and work your way back here.
2. It’s a reference book; don’t waste time looking for the big picture.
One of the most dangerous things I have personally ever done is spend the last eight years going through the entire scripture chronologically. We skipped nothing: Leviticus got its full range, Minor prophets got major treatment, troubling passages, pleasant passages, even the racy Song of Solomon got the full treatment. We embraced questions and encouraged discussion. One thing we didn’t do was intentionally memorize scripture, prove points, answer arguments of which prevailing systematic theology scripture endorses, or generally use scripture as a reference book. While there is some danger to a carefully cultivated worldview even in just looking to scripture for answers to specific questions, it’s far less dangerous if you continue to utilize the Bible as only a reference book. As long as you read each verse in isolation and make sure you apply every verse to the minutiae of your situation even if you have to twist it to do so, then you will run little risk of the much deeper changes scripture can bring. Looking at Scripture itself as a story, as THE story of the universe, reading it as you might a story, not parsing every sentence, but looking for the themes and concepts that are there, seeking intangibles like beauty, connection and a picture of what the universe should look like may lead you down paths that will forever change your view of life and your potential connection to God at every moment. Ironically such a big picture view makes you more likely to see applications in every day life, rather than less. It should follow then that a careful attempt to only open scripture in order to quickly find an answer, will make you less likely to actually run the risk of any significant application.
Furthermore, Think about the burden that would come with actually seeing each moment of your day as part of some bigger plan; think of the arrogance of believing that God would share the story of the universe with us and that you might be part of it. But don’t think too hard, or too long, and by all means don’t read scripture with such thoughts in mind, or you might begin to realize it’s not a revelation of your own arrogance or anything about you at all. Instead it’s an amazing revelation of a God who seeks to be known and has the power to make it so. You might start to think that God has had a plan from the beginning and a big picture grasp of scripture might actually make sense of your story within God’s larger story.
It’s much safer to assume that God’s grand story has no real connection to the daily events of your life anymore than a dictionary has connection to the words you speak in a given day. This way you can look to scripture to improve your vocabulary, as it were, but have no real danger of changing your worldview, attitudes, or faith.
Here’s an example.
In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8 that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, 9 he[d] made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.
11 In him we were also chosen,having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, 12 in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory
While this is clearly a verse of incredible scope and beauty you can maintain strict tunnel vision and avoid any sort of real breadth and depth if you make sure you only read this verse to answer reference questions about predestination and free will. You can use some or the other items in this top ten list to help as well. For example make sure you dive into the original language until the plain text is incomprehensible, combine this with lots of commentary that discusses minutiae but misses any hint of a grand and beautiful story. It’s amazing how easy it will be to miss the forest completely if you just make sure to look specifically for trees, only at trees, and parse every leaf on every tree.