What’s up everyone?

I realized recently that in the strain of publishing Life After Art, I had put my brain on a starvation diet.  For a couple of months, I was hardly reading anything, hardly feeding my mind at all.  I was running on fumes.  Let me tell you, it wasn’t healthy.  I’ll tell you more about all that sometime soon.

Now that I’ve rested and returned from vacation (and am getting back into the swing of my regular posting schedule), I’m gonna dedicate Fridays for the foreseeable future to celebrating not running on fumes, but instead being fueled by the good things I’m reading, what I’m learning, and people who are doing good things.  Basically, Fridays are for cheering on other people.

Here’s what fueled me this week. Continue Reading…

Can God use a talking ass to communicate to us?

Sure He can.  Those asses have names, like Martin Luther or John Calvin.  Ha!

I believe I’m on record having called John Calvin a “wang,” and I stand by that.

Of course, those aren’t the asses I wasn’t actually referring to.  In one of the most fantastical, unusual, perhaps unbelievable stories of the Old Testament, Balaam’s donkey opens his donkey mouth and speaks to him.

One of the perennial debates that goes around evangelical circles is the topic of biblical “inerrancy” and “historicity.”  Did the events in the Bible actually occur?  Can the Bible be trusted as a factual document?  My buddy, Zack at The American Jesus wrote a really challenging blog a few weeks ago about the topic.  You’ll have to make up your own mind about his assertions.

But every time this debate surfaces on my blog reader, I’ve had the sneaking suspicion that we’re missing something.  My “missing the point” radar goes haywire. Given two choices – to either believe all of the Bible, or be a heretic, there must be a third choice.

I finally found the third choice.  And it has everything to do with Balaam’s donkey.

Just the Facts, Ma’am

Raise your hand if you love C.S. Lewis.  That’s what I thought.

Raise your hand again if you believe stories like The Screwtape Letters or The Chronicles of Narnia provide apt analogies for truth about God and humans.  Yep, me too.

Now, raise your hand if you believe C.S. Lewis’ stories are factually true.  Uh-huh.  Just as I suspected.

See, there is a very real difference between a story that is merely factually true in its reporting of the facts, and a story which illustrates and leads the reader to a greater truth.  Lewis was a master of allegories which, while not true the way we expect a newspaper article to be, provide illustrations of rich truths of the human spirit.

When we discuss the Bible merely in terms of facts, arguing which facts are to be believed, we are really kidding ourselves.  We are pretending to think critically about scripture, when really we are only scratching the surface.  We are missing the intent of scripture.

Let’s say some future civilization digs us all up and finds the tools in your garage.  The future people have no idea what they are.  They can study and hypothesize about the facts of the tools – their material makeup, their shape and form.  But their understanding will be fundamentally shallow until they discover the tools’ intended purpose.  The facts won’t produce understanding until intent is included.

Flatly Factual Fundamentalists

Bart Ehrman has written another book, which inevitably tries to make our entire faith look foolishly unfactual.

Do you know what kind of religious background produces a Bart Ehrman?

Fundamentalist.

The teaching that you either must believe every word of the Bible is factually, literally true, or don’t believe it at all.

That’s a false dichotomy.  It’s a dichotomy that is driving away droves of young people who think they have to choose between their brain and their faith.  It’s a dichotomy that the Bible doesn’t even present for readers.  It’s a dichotomy that glosses over the literary beauty and the intended purpose of the text and forces people to base their faith on only a surface understanding of the Bible.

The point of the Bible is not a bunch of cute little stories, all existing independently, and whether or not they happened. It’s about something so much bigger than a boat or a donkey.

How I Learned to Stop Worrying

Is the point of Genesis 1 that God created the world in six days, or that God is our amazing creator?

Is the point of the Bible that Isaiah supposedly wrote the book of Isaiah or that Paul wrote the book of Hebrews? (He didn’t.) Or is the point that scripture is “God-breathed?”

Is the point of scripture to be a purely factual account – a history textbook?  Or is the Bible a piece of literature whose function is to point to a truth that is bigger than even its pages can hold? (Didn’t John say the gospel accounts, nay the whole world could not hold the whole truth about Jesus?)

And the big question of the day:

Can God use a talking ass to communicate to us?

I think He can.

And if God can do that, then God can use an ancient text, written over centuries, whose authors were fallible humans, as a vehicle for the Holy Spirit to penetrate our hearts and show us the truth about who He is.  If I start with the belief that scripture is God-breathed, then it no longer matters if Balaam’s donkey actually talked.  The question is what does this story say about God?  How does it fit into the whole story?

God can use stories, fantastical, even legendary to show us Truth.  And learning and embracing this was how I learned to stop worrying about “inerrancy” and love the Bible.  I don’t love the Bible because of its facts (lowercase.)  I love it because of its Truth (capital.)  I believe the Bible is inerrant, meaning the Bible is exactly how God intended it, not merely that Jonah survived in a fish for three days…

…But who knows.  Maybe I’m just another talking ass.

What do you think?  Does the inerrancy debate even matter?

Just this year, I became an escapee of my twenties.

And while there may have been a pang of regret at feeling old, I’ve got to be honest, I was ready to get on with the next decade.  My late twenties were a time that I was not even remotely prepared for.  Now I just need a bit of gray hair to make it look like I actually have some life experience.

101-Secrets-for-your-Twenties-Small-Book-Image-copyI’m so glad to be featuring my buddy, Paul Angone today.  I was glad to make his online acquaintance a couple of years ago.  I was really glad to shake his hand in person and learn that his name is pronounced “An-go-nee.”  I was excited when he became a fellow Moody author, and I was psyched to be able to endorse his debut book, 101 Secrets for Your Twenties.

Paul’s new book is a fun, insightful, and best of all - true resource for people swimming in the post-college mire.  It’s a great gift for high school or college grads.  Today, Paul’s answered a few questions for us.  And then, you can share secrets from your twenties – or whatever decade you are in!

Continue Reading…

3443916566_28395e9463_z“We hold these truths to be self-evident.”

Tomorrow is a day of celebration – of food and family, parades, bands and fireworks.  Maybe some of you even had a “patriotic” themed church service on Sunday, with an American flag cake afterward.

I am an avid student of American history.  It’s just unendingly fascinating, in all of its contradictions.  Our society was founded by flawed heroes.  And among the most flawed and the most heroic is the author of our national “scripture,” Thomas Jefferson.  The man who helped give birth to our society with the words “We hold these truths to be self-evident.”

Self evident.  These truths don’t need explaining or evidence.  They are plainly obvious and indisputable.

The problem is that the man was writing ideals.  And while the truth of the words may have been self-evident, they weren’t always evident in the life of Thomas Jefferson, or any other American since then.

Jesus spoke in truths, but for 2000 years, his followers have had mixed results with actually making the truth evident in their lives.

Maybe as we celebrate this Independence Day, we can resolve to make a few of these truths, which we hold to be self-evident, more evident in ourselves…

Continue Reading…

Jesus had some bad habits.

I’m sure he didn’t brush his teeth everyday.  And he was pretty bad at giving people direct answers to their questions.  He was known to have bad table manners when he went to the temple…

…And Jesus was friends with all the wrong people.

Of course, you already know that.  You know that Jesus hung out with prostitutes and tax collectors and all sorts of other seedy characters.  They were the “wrong” people to be hanging out with.  We romanticize this idea – how welcoming and kind Jesus was to everyone to all the outcasts…

…And then we make sure we do the opposite.

Since my post last week sparked a lot of good discussion, I’ve been thinking a lot about who are the “wrong” people for us to hang out with, the “wrong” sins to forgive.

The conclusion I came to surprised me.

Continue Reading…

How far will our churches go in order to preserve so-called “Biblical” values?

I have said it before – that in the future, churches will have a very real choice to make about how they treat a growing population of young people that identify as gay.

That day has come.

Credit: The Huffington Post

Credit: The Huffington Post

Over the last few weeks, I’ve watched the commentaries and predictions trickle out about how churches will react to the Boy Scouts’ decision to allow gay youth members (the alternative has been to retroactively and horrifyingly strip boys of their awards after coming out).  The consensus among prominent evangelical leaders such as Dr. Richard Land seems to be that among the Baptists, the Assemblies of God, and other conservative wings of the church, there will be a “mass exodus.”  Churches will stop sponsoring scouting units in protest of the new policy.

On the surface, I can see how an average evangelical might think this is justified.  Homosexuality is supposedly not “Biblical,” after all.  Being “Biblical” and thinking “Biblically” and having a “Biblical” worldview is always the great monolithic justification for churches acting this way.

But what it looks like to me?  It looks like thousands of churches are finally going to announce – once and for all – that their priority is being Biblical churches, not Gospel churches.

Continue Reading…