Pastor Phil

DPADTUGD

This is a helpful acronym!  Unfortunately it is unpronounceable.  I just completed a series entitled, “What is the Bible?”  Protestants today need to put the Bible in its proper context in order for it to be the life blood of our Christian Faith.  DPADTUGD is an acronym that sums up my sermon series.

The Bible is a Library.  All good libraries have a variety of books on a variety of topics and not all the books will say the same thing regarding a given topic.  Matter of fact some books will be critical of other books and authors who see the topic from a different vantage point.  We all know this is true.  When researching a topic, it is best to get the opinions of a variety of authors expressing viewpoints that may not agree with one another.  This type of info creates a broad perspective in which to form your opinion.

The Bible is such a library.  Different People At Different Times Understand God Differently!  DPADTUGD!  When the Bible is understood as a collection of poems, stories, myths, confessions, and letters, written over a vast period of time by vastly different people who understand things such as God, life, heaven and hell, or salvation from their particular vantage point, you understand that the Bible is a library.  This for me was the beginning of making sense of the Bible and its internal contradictions.  Any serious study of the Bible will pick out the evolution of religion thinking within our scripture.  Fundamental things to religion such as “sacrificing of animals”, changes as we move within the Hebrew Scriptures to the New Testament.

Moses is commanded by God to teach the ins and outs of sacrificing.  If you read Leviticus chapters 1-7, you will get detailed information on how, what, and when to sacrifice animals.  Its Animal Sacrifice 101, you might say.   But the prophets such as Amos or Hosea question the practice.

Amos 5:21-22   Amos speaking on behalf of God, says, “I hate, I despise your festivals,  and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.   Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings,  I will not accept them;  and the offerings of well-being of your fatted animals  I will not look upon.”

Hosea 6:6   For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.

Even the Psalms condemn the practice,

Psalms 40:6  Sacrifice and offering you do not desire,  but you have given me an open ear.  Burnt offering and sin offering you have not required.

Psalm 51:15-19    O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise.  For you have no delight in sacrifice;  if I were to give a burnt offering, you would not be pleased.  The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit;  a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

Whoever wrote Psalm 40, never heard the words of God spoken to Moses.  What do you mean, “you have not required”, that’s what Leviticus is all about.  Required sacrifice!

Jesus joins the prophetic rejection of sacrifices to, read Mark 12:28-34!

Different people at different times understood God differently and we have it all at one place called the Bible!  We are fortunate to have this library.  For me it frees me to use my experience, my tradition, scripture and reason to articulate a relevant and true faith for myself.

The Bible can be a companion on our journey of developing faith.  It may not have all the answers we need, but it core teaching expressed in the life of Jesus, is that we can love as God loves.  This is very clear in the passage from 1 Corinthians 13, “faith, hope, and love abide these three but the greatest of these is love.”  God’s Love.  What’s vitally important is that Paul introduces this passage on love, with the instruction that Paul will teach the Corinthians a new WAY to be, matter of fact the MOST excellent way to be.  The way of love.

1 Corinthians 12:31 But strive for the greater gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.

Paul believes the Corinthians can love as God loves, and I would venture he thinks you can do the same!

Paul’s not alone.  Jesus does too.  When you read the Greek Text of Jesus teaching about the greatest commandments, “to love God and love Neighbor”, the Bible writer uses the Greek word, AGAPE!  How about that.  We are challenged to love as God loves.  This for me is the center of the Bible, which in turn needs to be the center of our lives.

We can AGAPE.  This for me is the central theme that the Bible brings to my life and experiences.  Agape needs to be the center of all our discussion on God, heaven/hell, welfare, immigration, our national debt, our political discourse, everything.

You too can AGAPE, for the Bible tells me so, BUT Different People Might Disagree With Me…  DPMDWM.

The Bible. How words on a page can transform your life!

What is the Bible?  How words on a page can transform your life and our world!

The word of God can’t do it alone.  It needs followers of Jesus to live out the truth of Jesus’ teachings.

I started a series on The Bible and I will continue it for 4 more weeks.  I mentioned some facts and issues with the Bible that many people may never have considered.

It stems from our perspective.  Where and when we live in TIME.  We are fortunate in many regards to be part of the Scientific Age.  It began during the Reformation/Enlightenment and has continued to today.  We have benefited from discoveries that have improved our lives, travel, medicine, technology, and agriculture, to name a few.  We have easy access to people from around the world, some physically others through social media.  Our world is getting smaller.

But all great things have unintended consequences.  In trying to compete with Science, western Christianity became defensive and established its own theories and proofs, rule that cannot be broken.  The inerrancy of scripture, the need to believe in creation not evolution, the need to believe in the virgin birth….I could go on and on.  These are the concerns of “Fundamentalism” which has shaped much of western Christianity these past few decades.

Christian faith does not need to be defended!

In this scientific age, proofs, facts, provable experiments, and things of reason, are fundamental to our evolution.  We have gained significantly because of the scientific method.  But when we think that truth is revealed through a laboratory or test tube exclusively, we have missed much of the ancient truth and wisdom revealed in stories and myths.  This type of truth speaks to the heart and the mind.  It may not be provable, but it can be experienced.

I often say, just because it’s in the Bible doesn’t make it factual.  Science looks for facts, I look for truth.  We need to stop equating truth with facts.  Truth is much deeper.  I have heard it said often that if you aren’t a poet, you may never grasp the Bible.  Poems, stories, and myths speaker a deep truth of reality.

So in opening this series on the Bible I reflected on these 5 points.

#1        When properly interpreted the Bible creates freedom to evolve in our thinking about God, the world, humanity, heaven, and life.  The reason for this freedom stems from point #2.

#2        The Bible is a Library, not a constitution.  DPADTUGD, this is my acronym for Different People At Different Times Understood God Differently.  We are fortunate to have in the Bible, letters, poems, and stories from different authors over many centuries who do not agree with one another’s understanding of salvation, heaven, hell, God, or satan.  When I read that in the Bible it frees me up to allow the Holy Spirit to breathe new life into doctrines and dogmas of the Church.  It frees me to think for myself, as well.

#3        The Bible was not written for you or to you!  This is vitally important to accept if you are going to place the Bible in its proper context.  Specific people wrote at specific times, to specific people or groups of people, to convey a specific message.  We can receive the Word of God from these voices.  It takes work and interpretation to seek the original meaning and context.  We may never truly know if we reach that point.

#4        Just because it’s in the Bible doesn’t make it FACTUAL.  As I stated.  The American culture needs to recapture the truth and wisdom of story and myth.  Helen Keller is quoted as saying, “The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched they must be felt with the heart.  The Bible is full of the most beautiful things,     they may not be factual but they are true.

#5        We take the Bible Seriously NOT Literally.  If you take the Bible Literally you will run up against contradictions.  A major contradiction exists in the opening chapters of Genesis.  What is the order of creation in regards to Male, Female, and animals, created?  Our Bible begins with chapter 1 not agreeing with chapter 2.  In Genesis 1, the story of the 7 days of creation, you have all the plants and animals created and then the final act, the culmination of creation on day six, God creates humanity.  It’s like the cherry on the top of a sundae.  God creates them Male and Female, at the same time, after all the animals.  Genesis 2 says nothing of the sort.  It opens in Gen 2:4, with no plant, no water, no animals….only barren dry soil, so God takes the dust and blows into it the breath of God and creates a Man.  Man first.  Genesis 2 is the story of Adam and Eve and Garden, nowhere found in Genesis 1.  Then God takes the man and places the man in the garden and adds water to the earth.  Now animals and plants can be created.  Man first, Adam, then animals, then Eve from Adam’s rib.  Two totally different creation stories, in the opening two chapters of the Bible.  Can we really take the Bible literally?

Genesis 1   All plants and Animals Created, then Male and Female at the same time.

Genesis 2  Man created, then plants and animals, finally Eve, the last of creation.

Like Jesus we take the Bible Seriously and Selectively.  I’ll examine that next week.

Trinity, Fact or Fiction

There are church teachings and then there is “THE WORD OF GOD”.  I like an expansive definition of THE WORD OF GOD.  For me, THE WORD OF GOD is not the written words in our Bible, but the word that comes to me as a I study individually and within a group, those written words.  The WORD OF GOD is living, I like to say, always changing due to my external circumstances.  Sometimes challenging me, other times comforting me.

When I refer to the words on the pages of the Bible as the word of God, so much more is included in the Bible than in the doctrines or dogmas of the Church.  The Church has a way of inappropriately reducing scripture, to force a doctrine, rather than allowing the wider, richer, and I would say truer perspective, of the Bible to speak for itself.  The Bible is a Library of books, and poems, stories, and letters.  My favorite saying concerning the Bible, “The Bible was written by different people at different times, who understood God differently”.  That sums it up.  When we reduce the Bible, in the case concerning the Trinity, we eliminate many verses and voices of scripture, who might have understood the relationship between God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit, differently.  We have the Trinity, the Bible writers did not.  Their view of the relationship between God, the Holy Spirit, and Jesus is much richer and diverse.

Why would Jesus be seated at the Right hand of God if he was God?  Used 8 times in scripture, such as:

Mark 16:19 (NRSV)  So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God.

Whoever wrote this verse probably had a different understanding of the Trinity than we do.

Why would Jesus claim to be the “Son of God”, a phrase which represents that Jesus is a child of God, not God?  This is called Subordinationism, a heresy in the Church.  In the four Gospels, Jesus claims he is the Son of God, only 2 times, both in the Gospel of John.

John 5:25 (NRSV) [Jesus said], “Very truly, I tell you, the hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.

John 11:4 (NRSV) But when Jesus heard it, he said, “This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”

“Son of God” is most often used by demons and evil spirits when speaking to Jesus….go figure:

Mark 3:11 (NRSV)  Whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him and shouted, “You are the Son of God!”

Luke 4:3 (NRSV)  The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.”

More important than “Son of God” as a phrase Jesus uses as self-disclosure is Jesus’ use of the phrase, “Son of Man”.  Jesus calls himself, “Son of Man” in each of the four Gospels, and not only 2 times, but listen to this, 84 times!  Yes, 84 times!  It is Jesus’ preferred self-description of himself.

Matthew 8:20 (NRSV) And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”

Mark 2:10 (NRSV) Jesus said, “So that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic—

Luke 7:34 (NRSV) Jesus said to the Pharisees, “The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’

John 6:53 (NRSV) So Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.

I am listing only 4 verses, add another 80 and you will have the collection of Jesus calling himself, “Son of Man”.

What is the “Son of Man”, a human being?  This is a big question in Biblical Scholarship.  In the Hebrew Scriptures, the prophet Ezekiel is called by God, “Son of Man”, 94 times, in the book named after him.  There appears to be something going on with this phrase, “Son of Man” that is mysterious.  I doubt Ezekiel ever considered himself equal to God.

Whoever wrote these verses probably had a different understanding of the Trinity than we do.

I could go on…and I will, what do I do with these verses that show subordination?

John 14:28 (NRSV) Jesus said, “You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I am coming to you.’ If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I.”

Mark 10:18 (NRSV) Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.”

Matthew 24:36 (NRSV) “But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.

Remember that many of the doctrines of the church were created at a time when the Church (Roman Catholic) was the authority of faith, not the Bible.  The Bible as authority does not become prominent until the Protestant Reformation in the 1500’s.  (Disclaimer, it was the Authority of the Church that created the Bible.  Thankfully the Church allowed for dissenting views within the scriptural writings, while also discarding other material that did not agree with the Church’s teachings)

My point is that Jesus wants us to follow his teachings.  Do not discard Jesus because of the doctrines of the Church.  Scripture is much more alive, freeing and expansive, than what the Church has articulated as authoritative.

Whoever wrote the Bible had a different understanding of the Trinity than we do.

Use scripture, tradition/doctrine and experience, in your faith Journey.  Don’t worry about facts or fiction.  Anchor yourself to truth and grace and live a life of love.

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