God > Bible

I was talking with a friend the other day and that person was telling me that it had been difficult to get into the Bible lately but talking to God had become easier. I thought this was kinda weird at first, that old fundamentalist part of my brain was kinda pissed at the idea, and then I thought about it and stopped being an idiot.

There is this really interesting thing about books and writings and such. We think they tell us stuff, but really it isn’t the writing that tells us anything, it is our inner translation and interpretation of that writing that tells us something. Someone who doesn’t suck at writing can consider this and try his very best to communicate his ideas to the reader, recognizing that those ideas will be filtered through the reader’s own ideas.

You might think this is a small thing, but it isn’t. It’s actually a pretty huge thing. If you don’t believe me, just read about this super famous, super lame poem, called The Red Wheelbarrow. In spite of the fact that it is composed of only 16 pretty straightforward words, it still somehow is confusing as shit to anyone who reads it and there are lots of very different interpretations of what it means: from life depending on perception, to the importance of machinery. Seriously, look it up, it’s wicked dumb.

This is how, in the early days of America, they could say they followed a constitution that granted equal rights to all men, yet they still had slaves and beat their wives. It was all about how they understood what it was to be a human (which they thought meant being a white man or owning land or killing all the buffalo or something). It totally changed the way they understood the Constitution and rights and all that unimportant stuff. If you wonder how so many laws can be in place today that seem to go totally against the Constitution, then look no further than the power of interpretation. The Constitution has NO power. Power rests with the people who, by law, are set up to tell us what the Constitution means, and they basically have the power to say it means whatever they damn well please, and they do, and it changes depending on the culture of any given time.

So, back to the whole Bible thing. The Bible may be completely true and all that (I believe it is), but that does not mean that what we think it says is completely true. I said authors that don’t suck are better at thinking about how their writing will be understood and make considerations for that. Well, here’s the thing with the Bible, it was written a long damn time ago to some really different groups of people with some really different problems, in some really different languages, so we can excuse them if their writing might lose something when translated and interpreted by us.

“But,” I can already hear you saying, “the Holy Spirit tells us what the Bible means!” And there is the whole point. The Bible, without God speaking to us, is basically just a pile of paper and ink (or maybe pixels on a screen, if you’re into that stuff). This has lots of implications, at least to me it seems to. Maybe it says something about where we go for answers? Maybe it says something about Bible worship? Maybe it says something about talking to God? Maybe it says something about how strongly we hold our “Bible based” opinions? I don’t know, I just think that it might be alright to say, “I’m finding it difficult to get into the Bible but I’m finding it easier to hear from God.”

 

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    8 comments

    1. Rob Morley

      Hi Dan,

      The Bible is only one of many ways that God speaks to us, albeit an important one. And, I’m sure that God longs to speak to us apart from the Bible much more than we realize.

      So, it’s sometimes ok to have times or even seasons when we are not Bible focused. Sometimes, for good reason, we are just not in a place to connect with the Bible. Sometimes it’s just not on God’s agenda for us to be reading or studying the Bible.

      Regarding the word of God, it is alive whether we connect with it or not. And, when we do get into our Bibles, it’s not that the Spirit makes the words come to life, but that He uses the already living and active word of God make us alive and active.

      I have a post, The Words of the Bible are Alive, at http://realchurchlife.wordpress.com/2012/10/13/the-words-of-the-bible-are-alive/ if you or your readers are interested.

      Rob

    2. Ben Plummer

      Was your friend having an easier time talking to God or hearing from God…or both. If it was the former, I totally get what you’re saying; if it was the latter I’m kinda confused. What you said about the Bible being filtered and translated through our perceptions would equally apply to any form of communication God chose to use, wouldn’t it? Both mediate and immediate revelations need to be interpreted to be understood and applied. On a practical level, I sometimes have hard time telling if I’m hearing from the Spirit or if it’s just me. You’re right that the Bible without God speaking to us is just a pile of paper and ink, but how do we actually know if it’s God speaking to us without the Bible. If we divorce the word from the Spirit or the Spirit from the word we’re basically screwed. I think that’s why God binds hem together in His covenant promise in Isaiah 59:22.

      • Rob Morley

        Hey Dan (and Ben),
        I know I am being technical in my comment below, but I think that it is important to get a clear understanding of the things that we believe so that we can get the most out of our faith and not lose out in anyway.
        To say that “the Bible without God speaking to us is just a pile of paper and ink” makes no sense on two fronts.
        Firstly, THE BIBLE IS GOD SPEAKING TO US and, secondly, a careful construction of any writing CANNOT RATIONALLY BE JUST A PILE OF PAPER AND INK.
        Using the same sentence construction let’s consider that the logic of the statement. It is the same as saying that these posts and comments, without us communicating with each other, are just a pile of pixels. But, that is ridiculous because the posts and comments are our communication!
        It’s also like saying that a building, without the architect speaking to us, is just a pile of brick and mortar.
        We need to be careful that we don’t undermine the fact that THE BIBLE IS A CAREFUL CONSTRUCTION OF WORDS with which God IS communicating!
        Consider also, that, in the same way that our constructed posts and comments could be called “my word” and “your word”, God has carefully written things down called God’s word.
        Saying that “the Bible without God speaking to us is just a pile of paper and ink” is like saying that Jesus, without the Holy Spirit revealing Him as the Son of God, is simply a man (or just a pile of skin and bones). Yet, whether the Spirit reveals Him to people or not, doesn’t take away from Jesus being the Son of God.
        Similarly, “the Bible without God speaking to us” ISN’T “just a pile of paper and ink” because, whether or not I experience God speaking to me when I read the Bible doesn’t take away from it being a clearly constructed message through which He communicates, called God’s word .
        When Jesus walked among us He was the Son of God, and never just a man, whether the Spirit helped people to see Him as such or not. Similarly, the Bible is the word of God, and never “just a pile of paper and ink” whether the Spirit helps us to spiritually perceive it or not.
        The Bible’s message can be cognitively understood by everyone. Our acceptance or rejection of it has to do with our sinful nature and not the lack of construction of a clear message called the word of God.
        Perhaps you could have said, “God is speaking to people through the Bible with a message, which, without His assistance to help them to spiritually perceive it, may as well be to them just a pile of paper and ink”.
        On a similar note, if anyone is interested, I have a post, titled, IS THE BIBLE FOR EVERYONE?, where I challenge a common view in the church that the Bible is only for Christians. It’s at http://realchurchlife.wordpress.com/2012/06/22/is-the-bible-for-everyone/

      • Dan Allen

        Ben
        I think you make a good point about needing to interpret and understand whenever God speaks to us, through whatever means he does it. I was not saying that the Bible is an inferior way to hear from God, or that other means can not be misunderstood. I was saying that all means of communication from God, including Scripture, are only effectual because they are from God.

    3. Ben Plummer

      Maybe our posts are actually confirming Dan’s point. I have a sneaking suspicion that we’re all kinda talking past each other here. Just a thought.

    4. Dan Allen

      Ben and Rob

      It is kind of ironic that in a post where I am trying to talk about meaning and understanding, I have so drastically failed to communicate my point! I would like to start with a very basic statement. Tell me if you do or do not agree: God came before The Bible. Now, we can discuss the eternal nature of God’s Word or the eternal nature of the truths of Scripture and all that, but I am speaking much more simply. I am talking about the Scriptures as they are written down. Can we agree upon that? If we can, then I think my point can be clarified. The truths of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, the Word of God, to the degree that it is contained within those writings (to say that not all God’s truth is contained in those four writings, not to say that those four writings contain anything other than God’s Word), was true prior to those writings. Is that correct? The point is that the words, the writing, the compilation, the canonization, all are truth because of God, not independent of God. So, God is speaking to us. God and his eternal truth, which he can express to us in many ways. Do we agree that God can speak to us in ways aside from the Bible? Some do not agree with that, but do we?

      • Rob Morley

        Hi Dan,

        Yes, absolutely! My first comment to your post opened with, “The Bible is only one of many ways that God speaks to us, albeit an important one. And, I’m sure that God longs to speak to us apart from the Bible much more than we realize.”

        I am not sure where you are going with your comments on Scripture, but let me add that Jesus, like Scripture, is a communication from God. And, just as you say that God was before Scripture, He was also before Jesus (that is, The Word incarnate). Both are God’s communication to man. One is written and one is a human. God spoke with words and God spoke through Jesus. Most of Scripture pre-dates Jesus.

        Hebrews 1:1 refers to this to some extent where it says, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son…”

        Creation, dreams, visions, prophetic words, friends, husbands, and wives, are some of many ways that God still speaks to us. Especially the latter! Ask my wife :).

    5. Ben Plummer

      I’m sorry for taking so long in getting back to you. I agree with you that God is the one that teaches us, that He came before the Bible, that His word was true prior to its being written down, and that He has communicated with us aside from the Bible. I guess my only issue with the above would be if we were saying this stuff in an attempt to subjectivize revelation. I believe that as long as mankind has been on this planet there has been an objective verbal revelation from God (special revelation) that mankind has been duty bound to obey and to pass on. I think other forms of revelation don’t come to us independently from that special revelation but in coordination with it, and as such, they coalesce with it and corroborate it. I’m not sure, but I think we would allagree with that. All I’m trying to say is that I believe any revelation we receive should push us back to God’s special revelation (which today is the Bible) and impress its duties, promises, and truths upon us. I guess I’m just leary of separating God’s word from His Spirit. As near as I can tell they’ve always gone together.

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