Comments 4

  1. Thanks, Neal! I love how you’ve drawn several recent reflections together. And I deeply appreciate your description of the power of story to tell the truth and capture our attention. Far too often, script does one or the other but not both. I think Jesus knew the power of story is indeed both!

  2. Running a little with your comment near the end of the piece: “[W]hat if Christianity is true, not primarily because it describes the way the world is, but because it articulates for us the way we (truly) are (which is more than just how we ‘should be’)?”

    I think one of the mysteries and beauties of the Bible is that that is exactly what it does. When we’ve read a selection from J.C. Ryle’s “Holiness” (or, for that matter, the Book of James), students often struggle with the rather unflinching ethical framework laid out. Their response to “isn’t it impossible to keep all of these rules?” is usually a diagnosis of legalism, but I think the challenge is to instead embrace the idea that the Bible isn’t primarily an invitation to action (although it does do that), but instead an invitation to identity. Rather than telling us to act holy so that we might be counted holy, the Bible tells us that we are (by the blood of Christ) holy and calls us to act in conformity with our identity.

    In many ways, I think that’s where the true antidote to legalism lies, not in de-emphasizing the importance of our beliefs or actions, but in emphasizing our identity in Christ first and foremost.

    1. I think that’s right, Donald: the Bible’s call is not primarily to action but to identity. But I might go even farther–I think it’s a call to transformation. Perhaps ‘promise’ is even better than call, because it is God who transforms us. We are made holy by God–not by our own efforts or hard work. And we are then used by God to help transform the world, also.

      The danger with this line of thinking is that it makes it seem like we don’t have to do anything. But is that a danger–or is it grace? I go back and forth on that.

  3. Sounds like you’re saying Christians should read the Bible the was Jews always have. This reminds me of how Sarah Ruden made similar points very well in Harold Heie’s 2013 conversation on biblical interpretation:

    “The problem isn’t that the Bible has moral authority that it’s proper to apply to all of life. The problem is that processes for studying and adapting the Bible have been taken away from us, and so aggressively that many people see the fault in the Bible itself: the book makes religious leaders behave like that. No, they behave like that, in defiance of what the book inherently is and most of what it says.”


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