A thought about reading the bible: how do you get to the meaning?

Have you ever thought about the different factors at play when you trying to understand the bible? It’s actually quite interesting. Perhaps you are reading a passage from John chapter 4. Here is Jesus, talking to a woman at a well, but what does it all mean? There are many different approaches people might take in answering this question (please forgive the boring colorless diagrams, one learns to love them I promise).

Reading 1Most people would agree (I hope) that John 4 is describing an event, and that the event has some amount of meaning (see above). A simple approach would be to assume that the meaning is somehow obvious and that we can just understand it at face value (Jesus was thirsty and saw an opportunity to combine a drink with a tutorial on conversational evangelism -duh). This is na├»ve, of course, because the full meaning of the event is dependent upon the historical and cultural context. For instance, if we don’t know eastern culture, will we appreciate the significance of a man speaking to a woman, or a rabbi speaking to a sinner? If we don’t know Israel’s history, will we feel the shock of a Jew speaking to a Samaritan, or the Messiah ministering outside the nation? Clearly not. So once we have obtained our Masters degree in ancient history, our process of interpretation might look something like this.

Reading 2This is better, but there are still other more subtle barriers to understanding. Firstly, we cannot assume that we have direct access to the event.

Continue reading


A thought about certainty: is it the enemy of wisdom?

What is your idea of wisdom? Socrates said that the more he learned, the more he realized that he didn’t know anything. People call that Socratic wisdom, throwing off “childish” certainty and embracing uncertainty. Is that your view of a wise person, someone who has more questions than answers? Or do you see a wise person as someone who has all the answers, someone who has figured life out completely? If so, then wisdom brings certainty right? The other day I was reading about the difference between biblical faith and “certainty-faith” and the author said a thought-provoking thing: “Sometimes certainty is the enemy of wisdom”. That got me thinking – what am I certain about that I shouldn’t be, and what am I uncertain about that I shouldn’t be? Think about that. It affects how you relate with God, with people and with yourself.

between-suspicion-and-certaintyThere are many possible reasons why we would be inclined towards a black and white view of the world, or a more grey and ambiguous view. To some, this has its origins in our biology. For example, some people’s brain chemistry might make them more predisposed to fuzzy, intuitive concepts while others gravitate towards more concrete analytical ones. This makes me wonder about our natural preferences for different ideologies and theologies. Of course, much of this may be expanded from our biology to our psychology, because our personalities have been formed along different lines due to our environment and experiences. Continue reading

How has your walk with God developed in 2013?

I see things have quieted down here. I am myself sorry for not coming here and writing/commenting more often – earlier this year my life took some turns that led to me not spending too much time on this blog.

Yet, I am a fan of this blog and would hate to see it fade into permanent stillness. Perhaps the season of stillness may have been a good thing. But I hope we can move into another season of active, contructive, challenging engagement, as well as sharing and encouragement.

I therefore throw the title question in your general direction:

How has your walk with God developed in 2013?

This not so much a “how have you been doing” question as it is “what new things have you learnt? what new things have you experienced? what old views and understandings did you drop and what new ones do you favor?”

Turning the question on myself, I’ll say that I have come to value faithfulness to God much more than I used to. Both because I failed in my faithfullness personally, but also because I saw a lot of unfaithfullness around me. I’ve been reminded that, for all our spirituality, our wisdom and understanding about God, the Church and being a Christian, what is really important is how faithfull you are to these things.

I’ve also grown a distaste for the practice of the “gifts of the spirit” – not because I believe that they are any less real or biblical than I did before. I still believe they are and that they should be sought after by Christians! Yet… I’ve just yet to see a church that gets it even almost right. Mostly I see abuse of these gifts, or at best that they are used without yielding any real fruit.

Altar Calls have become a bit absurd to me. The principle is good and solid: a call to salvation or a call to repentence. Yet it *must* be a first step to growth. I find that some churches get simply stuck in an infinite loop of Altar Calls. Every week Satan is divorced, strongholds over lives are broken, forgiveness is finally released, captives are set free and life is spoken… and yet every week the very people who had “a spiritual breakthrough” by going forward a week or two ago, saunters forward again. If these “personal encounters with God” are what they are made out to be, I’d expect their legacy to be a bit longer than 5 or 10 days.

I miss that the church builds on Altar Calls and let Christians to actually grow beyond the point where they require weekly life-changing prayers.

I still go to Church, by the way, even though I find the experience fruitless or stale most of the times. I go because I feel I ought to – even if it’s just to keep alive the possibility of a spiritual revival within myself – and to have fellowship with other Christians (which also does not always work out the way I would like). I stopped going to cell, the main reason being that I did not feel I had a good reason TO go to cell.

Well, that’s me. Interested to hear what’ve been going on with you guys…