December 5, 2020

What would it be like…?

The Sower, Van Gogh

What would it be like if we as Christians believed that the Bible was written for us:

…to encourage us to think more, not less?

…to help us develop wisdom so that we can come to conclusions and make decisions maturely on our own, not simply give us answers and rules to follow?

…to engage us in an ongoing struggle to find truth, not to lead us to think we have all the answers?

…to make us more curious about our world and other areas of learning, such as the sciences, literature, and the arts, and not less?

…to give us material about which we can faithfully argue and disagree with one another, not to resolve all arguments and disagreements?

…to force us to trust by taking us deeper into places of mystery, wonder, and bewilderment, rather than taking away all our doubts and questions?

…as a tool more for contemplation and conversation with God and each other rather than as a handbook for life, a rulebook, or a book of doctrines?

…to form us into people who are more authentically human and more involved in the world, not less?

…to enable us to find more common ground with our neighbors, not less?

…to help us focus fully on fulfilling the greatest commandments of loving God and our neighbors?

What would it be like…?


  1. Different.

  2. “…to give us material about which we can faithfully argue and disagree with one another, not to resolve all arguments and disagreements?

    That, if it were to occur, would serve as a great training ground, a mirror if you like, for dealing with our own internal dissents. The inner conflicts that we all deal with, especially the big character defining ones, usually don’t get resolved. They just get lived through. If we had more patience in our interactions we would be helped to learn patience in ourselves. As it is there is very little room for patience in the black-and-white world.

  3. Susan Dumbrell says

    Conflict overwhelms
    where is the truth to believe
    a still small voice calls

    Blessing to all, we need them.

  4. Susan Dumbrell says

    Love the Van Gogh today, he is my favourite impressionist artist.
    I sat in awe in the National Gallery in London and tears poured down my cheeks to be in the presence of such a great gift. I was overwhelmed.
    Such a great gift for us to view today and gasp at its depth of greatness.
    More of his works on our web page will be appreciated.

    This is, along with my love of J S Bach’s music, who is of course of a different age., is a deep tangible access to the Divine.
    We need to view all art forms as a great mix of our interpretations of our Lord God’s magnificent gifts of art in all its forms to us men in this and past ages.
    A scrabbled sentence I know but I am sure it can be relevant.
    I know the IMonkers love thoughts, words and its ramblings. But sometimes we just need to consider the immediate small things and the great which we can appreciate in the present the greatness of God..

    Thanks be to God for Great Men.


  5. I agree that approaching the Bible in the ways enumerated would be wonderful. But if you feel and believe that there is something fundamentally wrong with yourself and the world, such that you and the world require salvation, you are likely to approach the Bible looking for certainty concerning the way to that salvation, and looking for definite information about how you can secure spiritual safety for yourself and others. And the vast majority of people in the world, especially those in real existential need and personal crisis, continue to approach the Bible in just such a way.

    • I’m not saying there is no assurance, no firm place on which to stand. The Bible does, after all, lead us to Jesus, and it introduces us to the Spirit, who causes our hearts to cry, “Abba!”

      But I feel there is a fundamental humility that is missing in much of our relationship with scripture, and that is what I’m trying to capture today.

      • Christiane says

        “But I feel there is a fundamental humility that is missing in much of our relationship with scripture, and that is what I’m trying to capture today.”

        far too many ‘bible-believing christians’ are using ‘take-out’ verses from Scripture, out of context, and without using the lens of Christ,
        in order to express their own opinions. . . . . . . what they are doing is the OPPOSITE of this longed-for prophecy:

        “”For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, And do not return there without watering the earth And making it bear and sprout, And furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; 11So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it. ” (from Isaiah 55)

      • Iain Lovejoy says

        I agree. The “firm place to stand” is God, not the Bible. The Bible isn’t God: it is supposed to lead us to God, but is not God himself. It’s like being given a fishing rod and being told “this will feed you” and then trying to eat the fishing rod.

    • Robert,

      I think the question needs to be asked, “In what does ‘salvation’ consist?” Different interpreters of the Bible come up with different answers to that.


      • What I’m saying, Dana, is that because of personal crises many people are extremely susceptible to the kind of simplistic evangelistic teachings that send them to the Bible for “salvation information” (after having already told them what they should find in the Bible). Add the threat of hell for not getting the right message, and a toxic brew has been served to people who already were in crisis. Many people, the most needy, simply cannot manage the more patient approach that CM commends, and that the Bible warrants. They cannot see or hear it.

  6. Adam Tauno Williams says

    One thing is for certain: it would be a lot more fun. 🙁

  7. One more thing. This post ought to be distributed to every school of theology everywhere. There’s more than a pop quiz there. That is a “fundamental” approach that would free the spirit and intellect of many, fostering integrity to the spirit of Logos. Inspired I would say!

  8. Great list of questions to help set our minds on things above, to help us clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience, to help us bear with each other and forgive, and to help us let the peace of Christ rule our hearts.

    • Christiane says

      we live in the time of the ’30 minute’ attention span where, if we cannot solve a problem or impact it greatly within a short time, we may feel we are failing to make things better, so the fruit of the Holy Spirit which you describe so well are not thought of in our modern minds as ‘effective’ . . . . . instead we are impatient with one another, which for Christians never worked, no

      In our impatience and lack of humility, we forget, this:
      “I planted the seed and Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. 7So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.…”
      (1 Cor. 3:6)

      I often look at evangelical people with their quick judgments of those they point at as ‘those other sinners’, and how they deliver their message to ‘those other sinners’ supposedly ‘with love’ so as to ‘save their souls’;

      but SOME of these evangelicals (not all) refuse to come AMONG the ‘sinners’ they are pointing down on
      and these evangelicals are impatient if ‘those other sinners’ don’t respond in a time-frame that the evangelicals believe is ‘enough’ or reasonable to effect a conversion,
      and so ‘those other sinners’ are cast away, and unlike Our Lord Who carried the weary sheep on His shoulders symbolically, these prideful evangelicals strive to keep their own ‘churches’ ‘pure’ and ‘uncontaminated’ ; so in Franciscan terminology, we can note that these evangelicals have not yet ’embraced the leper’:

      I think of the words of St. Francis of Assisi:
      “The Lord gave me, Brother Francis, thus to begin doing penance in this way:
      for when I was in sin, it seemed too bitter for me to see lepers.
      And the Lord Himself led me among them and I showed mercy to them.
      And when I left them, what had seemed bitter to me was turned into sweetness of soul and body”

      ‘patience’, ‘long-suffering’, hope . . . . . . the desire to do the will of God and not take ‘credit’ personally for good that may come, but to credit only Christ from Whom all good flows, and not to worry if we never see the end results of what we worked for when we did not give up on the ‘lepers’ of our time; and we may even discover that in the process of our own patient long-suffering efforts, we were ourselves among ‘the lepers’ being healed 🙂

  9. “…to give us material about which we can faithfully argue and disagree with one another”

    I’m not exactly sure what you mean by faithfully argue and disagree. What would be a faithful way to argue and disagree?

    • Christiane says

      respectful dialogue with an emphasis on trying to UNDERSTAND the ‘other’, which requires for us to ‘listen’ with both ears and even with the heart

      this is faithful because if done rightly, it employs a humility that does not worry so much about being understood and trying to understand AND it is a kind of relating to ‘the other’ that is honestly open to what that person is really trying to say, which may come out in ‘anger’ or in jumbled language . . . . . you have to be ready to ask clarifying questions to get to the salient points the person is trying to express, even if they are not proficient at using language to get those thoughts out coherently . . . . . in short, ‘listening’ becomes a way of ministering to a person who needs someone to talk with about their concern and when you are really hearing the person, it is THEN that you may have a better chance of responding with something of value

      some thoughts

    • Jon, the Bible itself is full of examples of contrasting points of view “debating” each other within the canon itself. For example, you have the book of Job vs. Proverbs, the book of Jonah vs. Nahum, the two different histories of Israel in Samuel-Kings and Chronicles, the book of Ruth, which counters the clear legislation in Deuteronomy and the instructions of Ezra. Jewish interpretation of the Hebrew Bible is built on the idea of argument and counterargument side by side; there is not always (often!) any definitive interpretation. The value is in the debate, of listening to other perspectives, of gaining wisdom by learning to think and look at all sides.

      As our commenter Adam once wrote:

      “I know I’ve said this before – but the contains-different-perspectives thing – which is a frequent hang-up – is very well illustrated by spending some time in the Talmud. Sections of that are EXPLICITLY ORGANIZED as this-that / argument-counterargument / debate. The Talmud is the text of the very people who collected, collated, and protected Scripture for centuries. The Talmud’s explicitness like this made it easier to go back and see many of the same dynamics in Scripture; that the Hebrew’s were a nation … and what nation is all of one mind about anything? Difference is not error, it is each ‘team’ representing a legitimate perspective.”

      • I understand debate and different perspectives. I’m just curious about this word faithful. We already have debates all the time; complementarians vs egalitarians, young earth vs some sort of old earth, the authority of Scripture, the nature of the atonement, and the purpose of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper just to name a few. But what is the difference between a faithful debate and an unfaithful debate? It is just respect and a willingness to listen as Christiane said? Or is there something else you are getting at.

  10. What would it be like? For me, taking out the point about the Bible giving us “material about which we can faithfully argue and disagree with one another,” my life would not change a whit as I find all the other points agreeable and do my best to practice them. As to arguing and disagreeing over theology and doctrine and meaning in the Bible, I personally find this abhorrent and doing so would nullify all the other points mentioned for me. It is true that I have learned a lot from studying other people’s points of view, however I find most of these points to be adiaphora and not worth wasting energy on in argument. For the most part I find the arguing that goes on here to be testosterone fueled one-upmanship and sport, and feel the same about it as Jesus did when his disciples bickered. Do I expect this to change? Not as far as I can foresee, and I regard this gathering as about the best Christians have come up with in this part of the world. To be frank, it gets discouraging. I’ve changed beliefs and understandings over time and see no reason why this won’t continue, but it won’t be from debate or being bashed. Mostly I expect it to happen as I try to put all those other points into practice with the help of God’s Holy Spirit, please pardon my supernatural thinking.

    • flatrocker says

      May we all pray that you allow us to touch the hem of your garment as you gaze down upon us.

      • Exhibit A. I rest my case.

        • –> “For the most part I find the arguing that goes on here to be testosterone fueled one-upmanship and sport…”

          Ouch. (Rick decides that maybe there’s a valid point here and that maybe he should pick up a mirror to examine self…)

          –> “…and feel the same about it as Jesus did when his disciples bickered.”

          (…and there goes any conviction Rick had at looking in mirror.)

  11. Susan Dumbrell says

    Article 6 of the Articles of Religion, Book of Common Prayer.

    ‘Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation.’

    Fingers crossed behind the back as you read this one!

    • I’ve pondered the Articles in my BCP 1979 for decades now. This one seems to mean that the Scriptures communicate all knowledge necessary for one to be saved. That has always sounded terribly Gnostic me; salvation then is the result of possessing and subscribing to the correct information. Not very incarnational, is it?

  12. I love this piece and completely agree. When God chose to walk among us and teach us, He gave us His rules about loving each other and loving God, and some other commandments. Christ did NOT instruct us in science, in all the fine points of doctrine, or even in the true meaning of all of Scripture. He could have, if it were important for us to get it all just right. But instead, I believe He meant us to do what we in fact have been doing. Come to the truth ourselves, through experimentation, discussion, observation, experience, and lots of thinking and arguing. Praise God