Lately, as I make my way through Rachel Held-Evans’ A Year of Biblical Womanhood- (stay tuned for my upcoming review in the online ecumenical publication, Sermons That Work)– I’ve been obliged to reflect on the nature of “biblical authority.” This is a term that we evangelicals love: we have been known to throw it around to support all sorts of agendas.
But, if it is true that all of Scripture is, in the words of 2 Timothy 3:16-17, “God-breathed,” and “useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work?,” what does it mean to take the Bible seriously? What does it mean to read the Bible faithfully and ethically? What does it mean to interpret the Bible in such a way that it impacts how we live in the 21st century- so that it truly is God’s “living,” “breathing” Word for us?
This morning fellow saint and sinner Paul Dover sent on this helpful critique by Rob Goodman for the likes of celebrity pastors like Rick Warren- and (I might add) Mark Driscoll- who mine the Bible as if it were a nutrition guide or sex manual. Such approaches are in no way new to the evangelical world. Before Warren and Driscoll (my addition, not Goodman’s), there were Bruce Wilkinson’s Prayer of Jabez and Joel Osteen’s Your Best Life Now, Goodman notes. He goes on to invite a more “ethical” approach when reading Scripture, one that asks us to view stories in Scripture for what they are- narratives that demand empathy for the characters and sensitivity to their contexts. Ultimately, reading the Bible faithfully and with respect for biblical authority means being willing to “love the stranger” in these stories, Goodman writes; it means being willing to relinquish the selfish tendency to impose our own agendas on Scripture, be they a trimmer figure or a hotter sex life, so that we might encounter the Bible on its own terms.
Is the story of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego really about what to eat in order to lose a few pounds and squeeze into that size 4 dress hanging in the closet? Is the Song of Songs really about how to spice up one’s sex life with some new moves in the bedroom (a la Driscoll)? I don’t think so.