Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Making Sense of The Bible

The Bible makes sense to me now but that was not always the case.

That statement requires some explanation. Because it did make some sense to me even when I was a very young child but still old enough to read for myself. That is the sense that I understood most of the words I read and even understood some of the stories.

But I did not have any kind of large view of the entirety of The Bible. It seemed disjointed to me with very little continuity of thought and characters. While some of the stories were compelling, many were also terrible and downright discouraging. The teaching itself in Sunday school added to the sense of discontinuity because I never understood the context if it was even presented. The sermons I heard mostly consisted of a reading of a verse of Scripture from the Old Testament and then a verse from the New Testament followed by a speech that to me seemed disconnected from either of the passages.

The God of the Old Testament seemed angry and often petty and rather human like to me. The Jesus of the New Testament was attractive in a way but seemed to be talking about a world that was so ideal as to be impossible. And the Gospels as far as I could tell dwelt on one thing whereas the letters told an entirely different story.

Large parts of the Bible were boring to me as well. It was certainly not something I enjoyed reading for sure.

Now, though, I love to read the Bible. I find a wonderful sense of continuity from front to back. I find all sorts of new nuggets here and there on my reading journeys. That's how it seems to me when I read the Bible now: a journey or, better, an exploration of new and unknown places. Like the Starship "Enterprise" boldly going where I haven't been before.

So what changed?

In my own journey of faith there was a time when I was searching for answers about suffering. I was led to the Book of Job which I obsessively read for about a month. One day as I was nearing the end of the book once again I was reading Job 42:5-6:
"I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear;
But now my eye sees You;
Therefore I retract,
And I repent in dust and ashes."

In an instant I realized that I was like Job. I had heard about God but I did not know Him. I had not seen Him. And in that same instant as though I had been sitting in a pitch black room and someone turned on the lights I could suddenly see this entirely different reality.

It was obvious that it was not a new reality but had been there all along. It was just different to me in that I had not ever experienced it before. I call it the Kingdom of God.

Experiencing that new reality made everything different not the least of which was me. Not the outside me but the inside me. My core was changed. My personality and my body all were the same but my spirit was different and there was something new as well.

I had this voracious hunger for God's Word then. It was like being famished except I needed the Scripture and not food. And I began reading as fast as I could. I began with John. I do not know why but that's where I started. I devoured it and wanted more and more. I believed what I was reading was true. That was a huge change because before I did not. It began to make more sense but there was plenty that I still did not understand.

I began to read a lot of other books about Theology and religion. Along the way I stumbled upon a religious philosophy called "Dispensationalism." It is a rather complete Theological system of itself that I found to be fascinating and helpful.

The most helpful thing for me was the idea that God deals with humankind in dispensations or administrations and that the rules of governance from one administration to another do not overlap. An example is the garden of Eden where Adam and Eve lived. There was one rule that God gave and it was quite simple. But that administration ended with man's failure to obey God and removal from the garden. Today God deals with man in an entirely different way.

It would be just as wrong for me to expect Adam and Eve to know anything about God's dealing with man today as it would be for me to refrain from eating the fruit of a certain tree.

This rather simple concept of time and context literally changed the way I read and studied Scripture. That's when I began to glimpse the beautiful and complex continuity of thought that ran throughout the Scripture. I was amazed when I began to unravel it.

I don't want to give the idea that I have arrived at some magic place where I now know and understand everything. Quite the contrary is true in fact. The more I learn and know the more I find I do not understand.

Except for one thing which continually comes into focus more clearly all the time. That's the love of God. It is as though I first glimpsed it through a telescope while I was far away from the source. Over time I have moved ever closer to the source and that love of God that I first so faintly glimpsed is now burning ever brighter and hotter and more intense than ever I could have imagined. And yet it remains a ways off.

That's the story about how the Bible began to make sense to me.

1 comment:

Lori1955 said...

There is still so much in the Old Testament that I have trouble with. I prefer to stick to the things that show God's love. I think that is the message that most people need to hear.

As for Job, that is still a tough one for me. I can't seem to understand how Satan could just approach God with this game and have Him agree to it. Boggles my mind.