Here we go… week 7 in this 15 week study. Are you still with me? Good. I must confess as I sit here typing away that I am one big hot mess today. The terms flustered, aggravated, impatient, irritated and well just hot mess all come to mind. So just as a note of full disclosure, this might be a bit tainted today. As always, if you aren’t reading the book, The Reason for God by Timothy Keller, you might consider jumping over and reading Stefanie’s excellent recap at Ni Hao Y’all.
This is a chapter I was waiting for in great anticipation. I wanted big answers because something that happens 10 years ago still haunts me. We were in Iceland. A friend was coming over often. When you live in a place where it’s dark 20 hours of every day, you tend to have close friends and deep conversations. One dark afternoon, my friend started asking me questions about my faith. She confessed that she no longer truly believed in the Bible. She couldn’t believe in a Bible that she thought demeaned women. She couldn’t believe in a Bible that she saw as culturally backward in gender roles. She asked me questions about my faith and about my marriage. We talked for a long time. I don’t think I ever really convinced her to look at things in a new light again for lots of different reasons.
And so… here we are. I was braced. I was ready. I read this wondering what my friend would think of this chapter. In the first couple of pages as Keller presents the alternate views of the Bible that have come about over the last few year, I had forgotten about The Da Vinci Code. My mind went immediately to the History Channel. I’m constantly amazed when I hear what is being presented in the form of a documentary. The Gnostic gospels and all the other “new” findings. Again, I think it’s like peer pressure. You can’t be the cool kid among intellectuals peers or liberal peers and actually believe in the Bible. Keller points to this immediately.
Keller points out three areas of concern for unbelievers. I’ll quote Stefanie’s synopsis.
Keller says, “The Christian faith requires belief in the Bible,” (p.102) and is “…a big stumbling block for many.” (p.102) The three hesitations Keller hears most against a literal Bible are: (1) it’s scientifically impossible, (2) it’s culturally regressive or, (3) it’s historically unreliable. (p.103)
Naturally, after the conversation with my friend, I was most curious about what Keller would point out under the “Culturally Regressive” headline. Once again, I’m going to copy Stefanie’s blog recap.
Keller then pursues the argument that the Bible is regressive and outdated. He says he uses the technique of telling people who have issues with what the Bible purportedly says to consider that the passage which bothers them is not teaching what they think it is or they need examine their “…belief in the superiority of their historical moment over all others.” (p.115). He then uses the example of slavery in the 1st Century versus chattel slavery and the narrow belief that “to reject the Bible as regressive is to assume that you have now arrived at the ultimate historic moment, from which all that is regressive and progressive can be discerned.” (p.115) Because we see ourselves as so modern, we assume we have the right answer but Keller says, “…someday others will think of us and our culture’s dominant views as primitive.” (p.116)
While I wholeheartedly agree with Keller’s assertions, it left me lacking with answers for my friend. Keller goes on to say that we shouldn’t miss the forrest for the trees… we shouldn’t miss salvation because we get caught up in the cultural discussions… This is where I get twisted up in knots. I read a very convincing and convicting peace about marriage recently. In that piece the writer said (I’m paraphrasing) that when Jesus addressed marriage and he said the words “man and woman” he was answering a question about divorce not homosexuality, Jesus never mentioned homosexuality. She went on to say that we didn’t have any words that Jesus wrote himself, only man’s interpretations of it. (Out of full disclosure, the link is here.) This bothers me. Keller’s answers to some degree bother me. My two cents is this book is inspired, divinely written. There is not a mistake in it. The mistake can be in man’s interpretation of it. The words are the words. They are there for us. To say that we don’t have the words of Jesus…then why bother having it written? (Please note, I’m in a pretty ill mood today…ill is southern speak for I’m pissed off to the highest levels of all pisstivity and there it has nothing to do with this book or study but it is clearly bleeding into what I write…ahem.) Keller leaves the cultural missives to the distinction between the different types of slavery, I think gender roles and homosexuality are the hot button cultural issues today. I was a little disappointed to not see him go there. I need answers man!
Keller ends with a description of a Stepford God or a Trustworthy Bible. I truly appreciate this point, ““Only if your God can say things that outrage you and make you struggle (as in a real friendship or marriage!) will you know that you have gotten hold of a real God and not a figment of your imagination. So an authoritative Bible is not the enemy of a personal relationship with God. It is the precondition for it.” (p.118)
So this week’s question is
Question: Have you been guilty of wanting a “Stepford God”? Has any part of the Bible offended you in such a way that you either ignored it or wished it away? How has this chapter challenged that inconsistency in your relationship with Him? –
This is tough. I think I struggle with gender roles, if not for me, for my girls. I realize how perfect God’s way is and how horrible our wordly eyes can perceive the Biblical way of doing things. We know some people with adult children that we watched grow up (yes I’m that old) and walk away from the church. In part, the gender roles that certain daughters perceived were part of the reason for turning away. I struggle with wanting my daughters to feel strong, valued, loved and confident. The world’s perception of the submission of a wife as described in the Bible is anything but that. I’m prayerful that they will never feel belittled by the role they have.
Attending a church where you hear people use the phrase, “Add not take not” as applied to how the Bible is written, I struggle with the cultural elements of the Bible. If were say that we are going to take it all literally, what about Timothy, sometimes my hair is braided and I love to wear big earrings. (I Timothy 2:9 or I Peter 3:4). How do I get to be the one to say what is a cultural command and what is not if we are going to take things literally?
This is a big chapter with more to think about. Thoughts?
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