Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Forgetting God in Scripture

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Have you ever been upset about something but couldn't identify exactly why you were upset? What does it feel like when you finally realize why? For me, it means dealing with only one emotion instead of two. I can say that I have recently identified something that has bothered me for years.

While in college, I would run into people with various theological viewpoints. I can remember very brilliant men and women arguing about some important and not so important topics of faith. Some debates were heated, some were seasoned with respect. I would often observe or take part in debates, sometimes leaving at peace and other times leaving frustrated. Interestingly, it wasn't just the mood of the debates that left me unsettled. I could hear someone support a belief I had and still be unsettled. I could also hear someone disagree with me and of course be unsettled. I couldn't put my finger on what bothered me till now.

I have been listening to Forgotten God by Francis Chan. The book is about our neglect of the Holy Spirit. The book points out how the Holy Spirit came the empower us to spread the gospel. He is the source of power for the Great Commission. Shamefully, the contemporary Church has misrepresented Him and quenched him, often seeking to do ministry by our own strength.

In the book, Chan talks about how we read our own opinions into Scripture. He talks about how a face value reading of the New Testament would cause a new believer to expect much more from the Holy Spirit than we give Him credit for. An honest approach to the New Testament would leave us all depending more, hoping for more, seeing more. This includes Holy Spirit action in witnessing, worshiping, and even miraculous events (Does this make you nervous?).

I think Chan is right. In fact, I think the problem is cyclical. We have ignored the Holy Spirit's role in illuminating the Word of God to us as we read. The result is that we have downplayed His role in everything. We ignore him as we read about His work, and thus interpret the Word of God through our own lenses instead of His. This is tragic.

I would imagine that right now, everyone reading this is saying, "Yeah, Dan. Stick it to those [insert theological viewpoint of your choice here]." However, I think the problem finds its way into every position. The truth is, I have charismatic friends who ignore Scriptural teaching about order in worship services (1 Corinthians 14:26-40). I have even more non-charismatic friends who ignore teachings about the Holy Spirit's role in miraculous gifts (1 Corinthians 14:1-25).

Do you ever wonder how many things in Scripture we bend to fit our own interpretations? Can you really tell me that a face value reading of Scripture gives us the idea that the miraculous gifts have ceased when the New Testament is full of the miraculous action of God? Can you tell me that a face value reading of Scripture gives you the idea that God is not in control of the future (Open Theism) when He clearly gives and fulfills prophecy again and again? Can you really tell me that a face value reading of Scripture leaves everything to fate when God consistently hears and responds to the prayers of His people? Do you ever wonder if we try to hard to explain our own positions instead of just trusting the revelation of Scripture for what it is? I do.

I know now what always bothered me about those debates in college. It was the way someone could debate so well, the way some of us could argue a point using Scripture when we know the verses we were using really weren't saying what we were making them say. Shame on us for bending the Truth of God. I would like to see a revolution of honesty. I want to read Scripture and let it speak truth as the Holy Spirit illuminates. Imagine what the Holy Spirit could do if we just trusted the Word of God.

What about the Bible have we tried to re-interpret to fit our practices or our beliefs?
What are you going to do to change that?

I'm really asking. Give me your thoughts.

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