Wrong Place, Wrong Talk
A short time ago I was at an event sponsored by the men’s group at my local church. The purpose was to pack food for those in need. It is an assembly line process that packs six rice-based meals into one bag. There are a variety of iterations of this cool product, you may be familiar with one in your area.
The cool thing about this event, is that even though it is sponsored by the men’s group, it is open to all volunteers. It is truly a family ministry and even young children can productively participate. This yearly event, as per usual, was a great success; fun, energetic and productive, as over 10,000 meals were packed.
The head of the men’s group, as he does every year, starts the proceedings with a few words which include some ways to get involved in the men’s group activities. He mentioned one of the long-time members of the congregation and that individual stood up to say a few words himself. This is where things took a nasty turn.
I have no doubt about this man’s faithfulness and sincerity, but he was way off track in his comments. He began by saying, “you may think you are a good Christian because you go to church on Sunday and feel good about all that. Rest assured, he continued, “if that is all you do without getting involved in scripture, then you are an INFANT”. There was just enough edge in his voice at the word “infant”, that I heard “snot-nosed, sniveling little shit. I doubt I was the only one who heard something like that.
What was shown to those present was a face of Christianity that was made up solely of bared teeth, reflecting little or no grace. It was truly unfortunate since many at this event were not a part of the men’s group, or terribly active members or in some cases not members at all. An excellent opportunity to share actual Good News was missed all because one individual garbled God’s good and gracious word.
Jesus in the Foundation of Our Faith
The theological problem with the formulation that was offered that day is that it leaned heavily into the idea that the Bible is the foundation of our faith. It most certainly is not; Jesus Christ is. The Bible is not the Good News. The Good News is that “He has Risen, He has Risen Indeed, Hallelujah!” The Bible is the thing into which that Good News has been placed. To confuse this would be like going to worship the baby Jesus on Christmas morning and then paying homage to the cradle instead.
The scripture does not explain or reveal the Resurrection. Our faith in the Resurrection and in Jesus as Risen Lord, is what makes scripture make sense. The faith in Jesus as Risen Lord is what saves us and obliterates all that stands between us and an eternal relationship with God. We may at this point be confident of our salvation because of this faith, even if we never open the bible.
Of Course, It’s Good to Read the Bible
Yes, I think it’s a wonderful response to our gift of salvation to ponder and study the bible. It is an amazing gift from God and tells us so much of what God wants us to hear. The great Jewish scholar of the Middle Ages Moses Maimonides spoke of scripture as a silver bowl, and if you walk by it that may be all you see. However, if you look inside, you will find golden apples. Indeed, you will.
I highly encourage everyone to “get involved” with scripture. It is a book of proclamation, poetry, history, prayer, and some steamy hot sex scenes. It speaks to us to this very day. We come to the bible in faith (in Jesus), and we can glean from it so much of what God wants us to hear. I realize that it can be daunting to open the bible. However, tackling it is like eating an elephant; one bite at a time. Read a little bit every day. You can download a “read the Bible in a year” schedule, that gives you manageable readings per day to get you through it in 12 months. Or you can find a part that calls specifically to you. There is a multitude of ways to approach this incredible gift of God. Reading the bible is not, however, a required work needed to gain your salvation.
“Infants” Made This
Let’s talk about a group of “infants” as defined by the men’s group member who thinks “getting involved” with scripture is so critical. The first Christians were “infants” so defined. For one thing, most of them were illiterate, so they could not read anything at all. It is easy to forget in the western world that our movement started out amongst the dirt poor and outcast. In any event there was no Christian biblical canon formed until 200-300 years after the Resurrection. There were texts passed around before that and read at services. Even after the first attempts to codify a canon there were debates about some of the minor books. Texts like James, Revelation and the books of Peter and John (not the Gospel John) were debated up until the Reformation.
At the time of the Reformation, Luther and the reformers settled on the books that are now included in the Protestant versions of scripture. The counter Reformation of the Catholic Church codified their version, which included some books from the Hebrew scriptures that Luther did not. The point is, that there was little agreement on what constitutes the “Bible” and in any event until Luther translated it into German it was all in a Latin that the general population could not read.
So, by the definition offered at the men’s group gathering the vast majority of Christians, especially the first ones, were biblical “infants”. Let’s just consider how this “infancy” hindered them. It did not. These so defined infants raised a church from the dust and took down an empire, that’s all.
In the end all that is necessary is to believe. This grace through faith is all we need to be secure and confident in our salvation. How we respond can and will be as varied as the number of people in the world. I prayerfully hope that one of the responses to the gift of God’s Grace upon Grace is to open the good book and read, study, pray over it and drink in all that God is saying to us through this amazing document. Just remember to worship God and his son Jesus the Christ, not the bible. As with all works, do it because of your salvation not to gain it. Oh, why did I lump bible worshippers in with spoonbenders? Because they’re both full of the same kind of shit. I’m pretty sure that’s laid out in Scripture.
Praise Be to God