In my last book I lay out the premise that we live in the moment of the story, and that artists are the best equipped at telling story. In fact, every medium, be it film, music, painting, or dance (or gaming) needs some kind of story. Even Agnes Martin’s minimalist painting “The City” tells a story of loneliness and rhythm in the grid based on New York City.
Fortunately for us Christians, we have the best material. We have an amazing story. And that brings us to the topic of this post–the Scripture. In the face of the top-notch material in the Bible, it is equally amazing how many Christians are ignorant of their story. For this reason, as we began to plan worship for Belonging House, the decision was made to use a lectionary and begin ordered regular reading of the Bible in our gatherings. People need to learn and hear their story.
I think some of the ignorance comes from the tendency in some circles to view the Bible as a rule book, a book of precepts and principles, or a book of disconnected stories that each have a topical point. Because of this “worldview” questions of inerrancy, infallibility, and Biblical authority are likely to arise. And challenges to the Bible also will arise.
Before going forward I need to state emphatically that Belonging House believes the Bible has binding authority in all areas of faith and life.
That said, I don’t think that the systematic, topical approach to the Bible is helpful, or answers the deep questions being asked today–“Where do I belong and do I have value?”
The Bible is an amazing piece of literature. Compiled over more than a thousand years, it contains stories, songs, laws, and letters. The whole canon–the 66 books acknowledged by Protestants, the Apocrypha, and the Deuterocanon, have an amazing cohesiveness. As a work of literature the Bible has a beginning, middle, and end. It has a growing conflict that climaxes at the Cross and resolves in the Book of Revelation. All of the smaller pieces of the larger work–the books as we call them, are all stand alone works yet they all advance the larger narrative.
And beyond compiling, writing, and composing the original material, the story of how we received this book is equally amazing. The fact that thousands of scribes, copyists, printers, and scholars all had a hand in the transmission of this book and that it has come down to us remarkably intact should fill you with awe. I believe every step of the process was divinely inspired.
But, the Bible is not a rule book or an owner’s manual. It is a story, and that story is what has binding authority in our lives. Our call is to find ourselves in the story, and tell that story to our children, so that every generation knows that they are part of this Story. A core part of belonging to the people of God is coming into agreement with the story of the book–the “meta narrative” if you will.
Recently I have found myself in a controversy with several evangelical leaders over issues regarding human sexuality. Their view of the Bible (that it is a set of rules and precepts that need to be obeyed) is conflicting with their desire to make a place for the sexually broken to belong. Over the past 30 years I have watched as leaders, churches, and individuals begin to parse the scriptures trying to find loopholes in the “rule book” to justify an area in question. Eventually the “precept” will go out the window, and along with it the very shaky man-made framework of Biblical authority built around it.
As I mentioned, the Bible has a cohesive story, and I think it especially speaks to the issue of human sexuality. You may have never heard this before, but the Bible is the story of a Father looking for a Bride for his Son. The Bible is a book about marriage and weddings. It is the “meta-narrative.” Don’t believe me?
The Bible story begins with the wedding of Adam and Eve in a garden. Most of the plot of the book of Genesis is about finding wives for sons. The book of Ruth also is all about finding a husband. The Song of Solomon is a graphic description of a honeymoon. Hosea is all about a faithless wife and marriage is a theme throughout all the prophets. The first miracle of Jesus takes place at a wedding, and the Bible itself ends with a wedding feast. The Big Story is one of marriage–between a woman and a man.
When we talk about the Bible and belonging we have to talk about coming into agreement with the larger framework of the Biblical story. We have to know our story, tell our story, and be transformed by it.
As creative people, people called to shape and transform culture there is no greater resource than our own Book. Our goal in forming a community is to help form men and women into people of the book and people who live and breathe the message of the Scripture. It is more than memorizing unrelated verses, or topical indexes.
The Bible Alone
Before I conclude this post, it is important to address what the Reformers called “sola scriptura,” the Bible alone. I believe this is one of the grave errors that was made during the Protestant Reformation. This idea alone has caused the endless number of denominations, sects, and cults all based one or two person’s interpretation of the Bible.
The early church valued not only the scriptures, but the teaching of the schools of the apostles. It was out of this context that a body of Biblical interpretation arose that matched the intent of the original writers. The church also put the Bible in the context of corporate prayer and worship.
The Bible is not all you need (please remember what I stated earlier about Biblical authority). Jesus himself said “You search the scriptures thinking that in them you will find life, but you miss the one of whom the scripture speaks.” Don’t misunderstand me, you need to be in the Bible and the Bible needs to be in you through reading, meditation and memorization. But, the Bible is not enough to get you through all life’s difficulties. The Bible is a means, not an end in your relationship with God.
As we look toward creating a place for the fatherless to belong, the Scripture forms an essential part of a three legged stool. In my upcoming posts I will be addressing the other two essential pieces, and how these form a complete whole and a healthy church–the Sacraments and the Supernatural.