Saturday, June 2, 2012

Bible and Life

Whether or not Apply the Bible correctly has bothered many friends of mine for a long time.  I grew up in a  church and denomination that strongly urged its members to refrain from drinking beer, wine and spirits. This group also urged its members to read the Bible from "Genesis to Maps" and believe every word. I did read it and studied it and saw that drinking alcoholic beverages was a very common practice in biblical times. In fact, it was so common that Jesus turned ordinary well water into well fermented old wine which was judged by the wedding party to be "The best they had served all night".

It would have been OK for me to draw that conclusion if I kept it to myself.  Many of my friends drank socially but kept it secret from the Pastor and Leaders. I am not the kind of person who likes to sneak around and do things behind the back of Pastors so I told him what I had concluded. He was immediately defensive and upset at me for speaking openly about what the Bible says.

Pastor: Gary, you are  wrong. The Bible clearly says it is a sin to drink.

Gary: Well, I think drinking alcohol can be harmful but even Jesus turned water into wine.

Pastor: It was not  wine but grape juice.

Gary: (Incredulously) What! How can that be? the wedding party bragged how good and finely matured it was.

Pastor: It would be impossible for Jesus to turn water into an alcoholic beverage because he was not involved in sin. Drinking wine is a sin so Jesus did not do it.

Gary: That is circular reasoning. Jesus decides what is sinful and what is not.

A year or so later I once again when I started doing Inductive Bible studies in the homes of our college and career students. Inductive Bible studies do not give answers to possible questions that arise but asks questions about what the text is saying.   That approach to the Bible brought about a heresy trial about me being "UN-biblical" and leading the students astray with false teachings.

I had grown up with Bible studies that intermixed Inductive questions along with Deductive presentations. In my country home and my village church we wrestled with the Bible and we argued about the big questions. However, in my new city church I discovered that disagreements about the denominational doctrines were verboten. I left that church for greener pastures.

When I went into the counseling profession I discovered that my approach to the Bible and its preferred practices was too hot to handle. Some thought I was way to much of a Fundamentalist because, in their view, I took the Bible literally. They rejected my attempts to integrate prayer, confession, and repentance into my sessions.

On the other side were my friends who thought I had a low view of scripture because I was studying and practicing psychology, 12 Steps, medicine, etc. They came from the "Nothing But School" of biblical counseling who insisted that we use "Nothing But the Bible" in our work.

My dad loved to tell a story about the altar calls at our little church. He said that one nigh he overheard an altar counselor on one side urge the person who was praying through to "Hold on Tom; hold on" while the person on the other side was saying "Turn loose, Tom, Turn loose!"

Because there are so many confused leaders and preachers in churches we have a lot of confused members.  One side they are saying "Hold on" and the other side is saying "Turn loose!"

I have a very high view of the Bible.
I have a very low view for a lot of the nutty theories and conclusions about life that come from personal events and past history. The more I read and understand the Bible the more I trust it to guide me, set me free and teach me how to minister. However, to think that the verses in the Bible are the only words we can use to help members grow does not make sense.

Gary Sweeten

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