One of the troubling, but nonetheless fascinating realizations of the moral revolution has been the number of professing Christians who deviate from traditional and clear biblical teaching on sexuality and gender. It seems like we steadily see new groups, leaders, and people come out of their theological closets to declare their support for such things as same-sex marriage. Myself, I’ve gotten quite a bit of feedback via this blog, social media, and even in person of people who try to persuade me away from being such a theological dinosaur.
Our Thirst for Respectability and Relevance
In thinking about this quite a bit over the last several months it occurs to me how gripped Americans, particularly religious Americans are by honor and acceptance. I live in Omaha, Nebraska. The slogan for the state is “Nebraska Nice”. Did you catch that? We are nice here. I grew up in Massachusetts. I am not going to say that people in New England are mean, but they are, in the words of Megamind “less nice”. We didn’t exactly take pride in our niceness. If someone complained about people being rude we would generally think you were a bit too sensitive. But here, if you say that Nebraskans are not nice it is like you said something about their mom. It is one of the worst things you can say to a native Nebraskan. It seems to me that one of the worst things you can say to American Christian, whether in academia, church leadership, the pew, …
Whenever you set out to teach a topic you have a myriad of challenges in front of you. What does the Bible say? What have other teachers written about this? How does it apply? When someone attempts to do this well, that is faithfully and accessibly, it is a daunting task—for most of us. Kevin DeYoung, however, seems to be a bit different. He’s able to tackle complex and urgent matters faithfully and accessibly.
You could argue that the most pressing issue for the church is to be clear on is the Bible. What we need today is to have confidence in the authority, clarity and sufficiency of God’s Word. Thankfully, DeYoung grabbed his pen and went to work.
In his new book Taking God at His Word: Why the Bible is Knowable, Necessary, and Enough, and What That Means for You and Me, we have this pressing matter succinctly addressed. The book is short (a mere 146 pages) but it is not light nor unaccessible. And his is the beauty of it; a well-written, clear, helpful book on the Bible. DeYoung provides a systematic study, interacts with individual passages, works through implications, and shows how this doctrine has been historically regarded. In other words, he approaches the Bible from a systematic, exegetical, biblical, pastoral, and historical perspective of theology.
Most of us, without much consideration assume that the ground that we stand on is secure. As we continue to hear the reports coming out of Washington state we are reminded that even the ground itself is not stable. As of today there are 14 people dead and nearly 200 missing as a result of a massive mudslide in Snowhomish County, Washington.
The stories and interviews are heart-wrenching. Surprising tragedies like this shake us. If the ground itself is not stable, what is?
“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)
You would expect a book that is divine and living would in fact be active, and so it is. Paul writes in 1 Thess. 2:13 that the word of God does work. Jeremiah writes: “”Is not my word like fire, declares the LORD, and like a hammer that breaks the rock into pieces?” (Jeremiah 23:29)
God’s word is powerful. The word translated here as powerful is the source of our word energy. It means to say that God’s word has God’s power, his energy.
Because it is God’s word, it is an undefeatable word. The Bible has all the essentials of the life and power of God to do his work! Isaiah says that the word of God does not return void; it does his work, powerfully so (Is. 55). The Word of God is powerful.
The other day I walked into the gas station by my house and saw several editions of the morning paper in its bin. The trouble was it was the early evening–the news was over 12 hours old. Shortly the bin will be cleaned out making way for the new, news as the old news is discarded. We don’t want yesterday’s paper; we want today’s. Far from being relevant the paper is relegated to a functional purpose such as stuffing boxes or swatting flies.
Shortly after walking out of the gas station I picked up my Bible. I read of the news. It was reported over 2,000 years ago:
Years ago my wife and I met a newlywed couple that provided us with no small amount of comic relief. This was seen starkly one day at a church meeting when we met them in the parking lot and the wind was at their back. We smelled garlic–a lot of garlic! As they approached it was overwhelming. Behind a full-toothed grin the new hubby said, “My wifey can cook!”
During the events of the morning we got disconnected. My wife and I tried to find them but were unsuccessful. That is, until my wife channelled her inner Sherlock, she said: “Pick up the garlic scent.” We found the trail of garlic and quickly tracked them down.
As Christians we understand that there is a difference between exposure to biblical truth and consumption of it. The difference of course is that it (the truth) gets down into you. It proliferates everything about you. It seeps into your heart. It reorientates your mind. It recalibrates what you love. It orders what you do. As a result of consuming biblical truth we leave a scent behind. Like my friends who walked among a hazy fog of garlic we as Christians should be leaving a refreshing incense cloud of the grace of Christ.
We have flipped our calendars to the new year with excitement and optimism. And as Christians this means that Bible reading plans are making their rounds and are being gobbled up by well-intentioned, eager hands. I celebrate this as a good thing.
But hold on for a second, I have a quick question.
What did you read yesterday? No, not what chapter, but what did you read? What from God’s Word got ahold of you to produce a response? Did anything evoke conviction or delight? Did something particular from your reading explode in your heart with thanksgiving?
Hopefully the answer is yes. But too often the answer is, “Wait. Hold on. …I can’t remember.”
This reminds me of childhood trips to the dentist. Do you recall after the dentist put that horrific flouride treatment in your mouth? He then would spray in a bunch of water that you would lean over and (try to) spit in the small circular sink next to your head.
Sadly too many of us have a “swish and spit” devotional life. We grab a little Bible reading, swish it around in the morning, then spit it out on the way out the door. The treasures from the Word don’t get swallowed and digested but rather spit out quickly.
Broken-Down House is a book on Christian living by the prominent and helpful author Paul David Tripp. It is about living with the biblically informed mind of what this world is really like and who you are really like (with and without Christ). This quote about the Bible is helpful in reminding us of the reality of the Bible. It is for our world to bring us to the next.
I am more and more persuaded that when we characterize the Bible as a book about spirituality, we do it and ourselves a disservice. The Bible is not a higher-plan tome about some mystical life of spiritual devotion. It does not teach blissful separation from the brokenness of everyday life. No, the Bible is a book about this world. It is a gritty, honest book. When we read Scripture, we face the world as it actually is, in big-screen, high-def detail. God doesn’t pull any punches. He doesn’t paint over any cracks. He doesn’t flatter or avoid. There is no denial of what is real and true.
The sights and sounds of the Bible are familiar. They are the sights and sounds of the very same broken world you and I wake up to every day. Dirt and smoke are on every page. You can’t read very far without your nostrils and eyes being assaulted by the acrid air of the world gone bad. Let’s be straight here the world of the Bible stinks in many …