This past Sunday, my message offered a “grand sweep” of the bible’s story.
Informed by some of Andy Stanley’s work, it was more of a lecture than a sermon. I hope and believe it helped bible novices and bible experts alike have some “a-ha” moments regarding the structure and design of the bible.
Anyway, the message closed with some random observations about the bible. These reflections are at the heart of my understanding of both Scripture and the inspiration of Scripture, and so I’m going to do something I’ve never done on this blog before: copy and paste a transcript section below. Enjoy:
1. It’s got flawed heroes. In an age where most kings and authorities wrote (or had written about them) only their successes, only received one-dimensional portrayals, the bible’s characters are fully formed. Noah’s drunkenness, Jacob’s treachery, David’s adultery, Peter’s denials, and Paul’s ailments. We see all of it. It makes the bible more inspired . . . much more. I better see how its story is my story.
2. There’s conversation within the bible. Proverbs tells you repeatedly that if you live right you’ll be blessed. Ecclesiastes, the very next book, almost says, “oh yeah? Live right and you still die! What’s the point?!” And they are written by the same guy! Solomon. Just at vastly different stages of his life . . . when he wrote Proverbs he was on his meds and when he wrote Ecclesiastes he wasn’t. But the point is to allow each book stand on its own rather than trying to force them into a false kind of harmony. They say different things and if you truly believe the bible is inspired you’ll allow them to do just that. It’s much more interesting – and inspired – that way.
And 3. This might be the most important. People ask me, “do you interpret it literally or symbolically?” The right answer? You interpret it literarily. It’s a library w/ a bunch of different styles of writing. If you interpret some of it literally it’ll make you crazy; like God’s not really a shepherd and I’m not really a sheep. And there is not a man in this room who really takes the bible literally. Why? You all still have both your eyes. To see what I mean, check here. By the same token, there are parts of the bible that are straightforward and literal. For example, when it says, “Thou shalt not commit adultery” there is nothing symbolic about it all.
You read different books in different ways according to the kind of literature it uses. That’s why the bible is much better read in community than in isolation. You get wisdom & help of others.