[Note:This isn’t completely a Part 2 of my post Family Business but its close.]
I’m still fuming about how much time I’ve used up going through Blackaby’s principles to make sure I was “In God’s Will” when choosing between Colombian and Special Roast on the Coffee Aisle. I’ve read the Luther quote “Sin boldly and let grace abound” DeVine uses and I remember reading in Bonhoeffer’s Cost of Discipleship but it came around the final corner in that post and POW! I’m still reeling from the impact. God’s Word does that to people too. Sometimes you’ll read a passage over and over and then Wham-O! You’re ROFL (or crying) wondering “Why didn’t I see that before?” (I’m currently in the market for a Theological Latin Primer if such a beast exists.)
One of the things that has continually broken me down over these years of trying to teach is the simple disregard people have—people my age have—for God’s Word. I recall much ado at the end of the last century about an upsurge in spirituality and church attendance being attributed to the aging Boomer population looking for answers and a younger, more hip X’er generation going, “Dude, we totally know what you mean.” But that was, I am afraid, a secular optimism that hasn’t borne fruit in the church at least not from the standpoint of obvious spiritual growth. In fact from where I’m sitting in here in the cheap seats it looks as if a great number of those who do attend church are merely giving lip service to the gospel by showing up at church at semi-regular intervals and calling it good.
This casual attitude toward Bible study and its necessary consequence of looking for that spiritual fix has caused many to slip into bad theology and questionable doctrine. I realize that getting millions of Baptists to agree on something is going to be about as fruitful as herding cats at least the cats will come when you rattle the cat food box. Issue a call to a serious Biblical examination of our collective spirituality or how we go about the business of being Christian day in and day out? I don’t know that there are many who will respond.
In spite of the fact that the SBC may not be ready for such a dialog I think it is desperately needed. As an example I’ll offer this: Most of the church members I’ve ever talked to will readily agree that sin is bad–I.e., we all sin, we’re sinners. However, nearly all of them equivocate on the concept of SIN (total/radical depravity) as that thing that completely separates us from God. Frankly I haven’t been able to get past this necessary point in discussions with any church member. Very few pastors I’ve known even want to go there.
The root of the problem, I’ve found, is that no one seriously wants to engage the Sovereignty of God in any way because of fear–and that’s why they feel threatened. The general they are afraid of how it affects evangelism and worship style and even our polity. (Not to mention the bottom line of the CP–guilty Christians are giving Christians). I’m preaching to the choir here, but all one really has to do is compare the current Baptist Faith and Message with something like the Abstract of Principles and its pretty obvious. There’s a serious shift from God to Man and we’re all about the Man and his ability to choose right now.
Here’s the other side of the dilemma that I’ve had to face up to: I’m pretty hard on folks with poor Bible study habits. Heck I’m pretty hard on myself. But is it too much to ask that those who call themselves Christians should apply themselves? Probably not, but many times when the topic comes up it just boils down to finding time to do it. Most want to find time to read and study but its hard to do these days. I can sympathize, but I also know that when something is a priority for us we do it.
One of the things I have tried to do is get people to understand that for a Christian, the Bible should be like listening to God. That’s why it’s called God’s Word. Not only that, but Christians also have the Holy Spirit to guide and direct us and illuminate the scriptures as we read them. Does that mean it’s easy? No. It’s not a novel or a magazine it’s the Word of God. It’s a miracle that we can even comprehend any of it at all if what it says about its Author is true. But the thing was written for practically illiterate fishermen and tradesmen and workmen—not the nobility.
“…The New Testament may be considered as exhibiting the only genuine facsimile of the colloquial diction employed by unsophisticated Grecian gentlemen of the first century, who spoke without pedantry…”—A.T. Robertson, A Grammar of the Greek New Testament (Introduction)
These were not scholars or academic heavy weights. No Master of Divinity WITH Biblical Languages or anything like that. They were average working people like you and me. And when the writers of the NT were writing they wrote it with that in mind. Paul knew his audience. He wasn’t hiding anything–why write a letter no one can read? It’s not mystical or hidden or encoded. Its the Word of God and these days its written in plain English and a jillion other languages. Any reasonably literate Christian should be able to dust off their Bible and read it and–are you ready?–hear what the Lord has to say.
“…the word of God is not bound”
–2 Timothy 2:9