Friday, May 23, 2008

Contradictions in the Bible

Sometimes it can be confusing and rather hard to understand why there are apparent (not real) contradictions in the Bible. In Ben Witherington's recent book he comments on one of these that I thought might be of help.

In the parallel accounts of 1-2 Samuel and 1-2 Chronicles, there are some apparent problems. For instance, what did Nathan actually say to David? What 2 Samuel reports or what 2 Chronicles reports? A little of both? Neither? At this point, Witherington points out that the principle of subsequence is pretty important as one tries to historically account for the diversity of these two accounts. In his words:

"First and second Samuel was written long before 1-2 Chronicles, and the latter text
presupposes that the former is in play and widely known, which is precisely what allows the
Chronicler to take some liberties in order to make his own theological and ethical points. He
assumes a preexisting fixed text."

It's good to keep some of these things in mind as we read through the entirety of the Bible.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Living Word of God

Just started reading Ben Witherington's book The Living Word of God: Rethinking the Theology of the Bible. Ben is a former professor of mine at Asbury that I am grateful to have studied under for nearly 4 years. He's a great theologian and historian as well as a very giving person. I wanted to comment on what I've read so far that I thought might be helpful for you the reader when it comes to reading the Bible.

First, we have to remember that the world of the New Testament was primarily an oral culture. In fact, the literacy rate back then was never higher than 20 percent. During the time when the New Testament would have been written (first century), if one could read, this was usually a sign of someone being of a higher social standing and because of this, with more education. Moreover, those who could read were largely males, not females, which is not a surprise in a male dominated culture.

Secondly, it's helpful to remember that the Old Testament was the Bible of the earliest Christians as the New Testament was not yet written, collected, and then canonized. Even then, the OT canon (the books that eventually made up the OT that we have in our Bibles today), was not completely settled much before the final years of the first century. Because of this, a distinction needs to be made between the "Bible" as one form that God's word took (written form) and the "Word of God" which is a much broader category that includes both written and oral words; but also an Incarnate person of Jesus identified in John 1 as the Word. Nevertheless, the source is God who, in the words of Dr. Ben, "inspires, speaks, and empowers the words with qualities that reflect the divine character."

I found this a healthy reminder as I read God's written word (the Bible) and I hope you might find a nugget or two that might be of help. I'll be commenting on this book more in the days ahead so stay tuned...

Thursday, May 01, 2008

The National Day of Prayer

I have to admit, I'm not a big fan of "national" anythings. Yes, I know today (May 1st) is the National Day of Prayer. Yes, I think we need to pray for our country. And yes, I know that as a Pastor, some would say that I need to make a bigger deal out of such a day. But, I don't and here comes the reason why. In my opinion, to make a day out to be the "national" day of prayer is to say that the other 364 days are not days of prayer.

I'm reminded of how church attendance throughout the nation soared after the attacks on 9/11 as everyone was visibly shaken after witnessing such horrific death and destruction - and for good reason. However, sadly after only a few weeks, attendance at church was back to normal as we find better ways to spend our time. How quickly our lives return to normal and how quickly time heals even the worst that life can bring to us.

In a similar way, I think this is what happens when we make prayer a priority once a year. After the day is over, prayer so easily gets shoved aside and replaced with better ways to spend our time. As if prayer should only be a priority and is only needed once a year.

Now if the National Day of Prayer helps you to focus in on prayer unlike the other days of the year, then I would say "good for you." Keep at it! However, to make prayer a priority once out of the entire year is, in my view, an overall a bad idea. We are called to pray continuously without stopping. Brother Lawrence, a monk during the middle ages, showed us how to pray and be in God's presence even during the most mundane of tasks. In his timeless classic, The Practice of the Presence of God, Brother Lawrence shows us how we can prayer while doing the everyday sort of stuff - like doing the dishes or doing our jobs.

I'm all for praying - just not once a year. If it would help, maybe we should have a National Year of Prayer instead. Now that I'm all for!