Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Abusing Scripture

2 days ago, I posted this status:
I wonder if it's ok for a guy who works at a church to say that he feels very hostile when people use scripture in conversation?

It got several retweets, a few likes, and a dozen comments or so on the Facebook. But it also got a few of my friends to ask me about what it meant, some public & some private.

I think they're right, it deserves clarification and can easily be misinterpreted at first glance.

What I did NOT mean

In no way am I hostile TO scripture. I'm not offended by hearing the Bible recited. I think that reading the Bible, and wrestling with it (discussing it) with others, is one of the most important things you can do to grow in your faith. I think, if anything, more of us suffer from scripture ignorance as opposed to having an abundance of scripture knowledge.

Too many of us make dangerous errors when we read or interpret scripture, such as:

  • Reading it outside of community. The reality is that most books of the Bible were written to groups of people...not individuals. So to think that the Bible is just between "us and God" can be a very dangerous practice.

  • Ignoring the context of the passage. This is where clobber verses come from. The ones that are used to beat people over the head. No good, people!

  • Ignoring how the original audience would have understood it. Everything in the Bible was written to (and by) specific people at a specific point in history to address specific things. If you don't try to understand how the original audience would have received it, and instead focus on how we in the 21st century receive it, I believe you're doing an injustice to the meaning.

  • Ignoring the supporting documents. This goes a bit in hand with the last point. Especially when we talk of the New Testament, there is a world of literature that would have influenced the mindset of the people hearing the new information. For one...ya know...the Old Testament. I think the best way to understand much of the NT (especially the writings of Paul) the best thing you could do is have a firmer understanding of the OT.

What I DID mean

That thought was born out of a long line of conversations with people who seem to just throw scripture verses into a conversation for either: bad reasons, or no reason at all.

It seems to be incredibly easy to take a verse (or passage) from the Bible, and just leverage it to validate whatever position you're already a fan of in the first place.

THAT is what I am hostile towards. Or maybe a better way to put it instead of hostility, is that is what I feel a discontent from.

Manipulating scripture to validate ourselves. As opposed to letting it ignite something in us that brings us to a new point in our lives. Instead of having it create some discontent with who we are vs who God is calling us to be, we have a tendency to use scripture like it's some sort of tool (or for way too many of us, a weapon).

Does that hostility make a bit more sense? Do you ever experience something of the same?