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The Year Of Living Biblically June 8, 2012



I have a friend who, concerning the word “biblical,” has stated “Oh my gosh, I hate that word!”
She’s a very astute young woman.
It’s a word that’s tossed about, misused, and frankly has come to mean little more than saying “God is on my side.  You loose.”
If, however, the word has ever been used correctly, A. J. Jacobs has done so in his book “The Year Of Living Biblically.  One man’s humble quest to follow the Bible as literally as possible.”

Here’s a blurb from Mr. Jacob’s website:

“The Year of Living Biblically answers the question: What if a modern-day American followed every single rule in the Bible as literally as possible. Not just the famous rules – the Ten Commandments and Love Thy Neighbor (though certainly those). But the hundreds of oft-ignored ones: don’t wear clothes of mixed fibers. Grow your beard. Stone adulterers. A.J. Jacobs’ experiment is surprising, informative, timely and funny. It is both irreverent and reverent. It seeks to discover what’s good in the Bible and what is maybe not so relevant to 21st century life. And it will make you see the Good Book with new eyes.
Thou shalt not put it down.”

This book was recommended to me.  Otherwise, I probably wouldn’t have read it.
Had I not, I would have missed out on an entertaining, fun, poignant, and quite strange journey.

Officially, Mr. Jacobs is Jewish.  He is, though, in his own words:
“Jewish like the Olive Garden is an Italian restaurant.  Which is to say, not very.”

Having never been a very religious man, A.J. wanted to explore religion and the Bible for himself.
There are many things he discovered that were not surprising.
For example, the fact that no one, absolutely no one, follows all of the Bible literally.
Everyone “picks and chooses.”
He finds, as expected, that, passage to passage, there are many contradictions within the pages of scripture.
He also marvels at how “these ethically advanced rules and these bizarre decrees  [can] be found in the same book.”
“It’s not like the Bible has a section called ‘And Now for some Crazy Laws.'”

There were also some results the author did not expect.

He began to enjoy prayer:
“Prayer can be a sacred ritual. There is something transcendent, beyond the everyday.”

He became a more thankful person:
“I’m actually muttering to myself, ‘Thank you. . .thank you. . . thank you.’ It’s an odd way to live. But also kind of great and powerful. I’ve never before been so aware of the thousands of little good things, the thousands of things that go right every day.”

And he experienced a new-found power in forgiveness:
“There’s a beauty to forgiveness, especially forgiveness that goes beyond rationality. Unconditional love is an illogical notion, but such a great & powerful one.”

A.J. spends his biblical year going through the Bible front to back.  Thus, he doesn’t get to “New Testament living” until the last 3rd or last quarter of the book (month 9 in his year).  When he makes the transition he faces a question many still find confusing.  “Should I continue to follow all the rules of the Hebrew Bible?”
Unfortunately, he didn’t ask me. 😉

In this portion, he looks at many brands of Christianity (There are reportedly almost forty-THOUSAND  Christian denominations), including “The Pat Robertson-Jerry Falwell- style,” of conservative fundamentalists, and the “Red Letter Christians” who focus on social justice, poverty, and the environment.  Both camps use the Bible, “but they come out with radically different agendas.”

Through the old and the new, A.J. Jacobs’ year-long adventure is anything but dull.  He lets his beard grow (which his wife is not terribly fond of), he wears all white. He visits and consults all manner of bible-based religious groups from the Jewish cultures to the Amish to the Catholic and many many others.
One of the best parts is when he actually “stones” an adulterer.

This is a fun and very different type of memoir.
Where ever you are in your journey of life, I think you’ll find great pleasure in letting Mr. Jacobs share his journey with you.

– df

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

————–

Some Quotes:

– More and more, I feel it’s important to look at the Bible with an open heart.

– I’ve rarely said the word “Lord,” unless it’s followed by “of the Rings.”

– The problem with a lot of religion…is that people have interpreted the Gospel so much, we’ve started to believe the interpretations instead of what Jesus said.

– Your behavior shapes your beliefs. If you act like a good person, you eventually become a better person. I wasn’t allowed to gossip, so eventually I started to have fewer petty thoughts to gossip about. I had to help the less fortunate, so I started to become less self-absorbed. I am not Gandhi or Angelina Jolie, but I made some progress.

– Falwell’s version of Christianity bears practically no relation to Jesus’s message.

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

– The whole bible is the working out of the relationship between God and man. God is not a dictator barking out orders and demanding silent obedience. Were it so, there would be no relationship at all. No real relationship goes just one way. There are always two active parties. We must have reverence and awe for God, and honor for the chain of tradition. But that doesn’t mean we can’t use new information to help us read the holy texts in new ways.

– Polygamy was, if not the norm, completely accepted. The Bible doesn’t forbid polygamy.

– It comes back to the old question: How can the Bible be so wise in some places and so barbaric in others? And why should we put any faith in a book that includes such brutality?
[This is where, due to an unhealthy view of scripture, many Christians say something stupid like “It’s all about balance.”  Sorry.  Wrong answer.  Some things just can’t be balanced.]

– My reading list grows exponentially. Every time I read a book, it’ll mention three other books I feel I have to read. It’s like a particularly relentless series of pop-up ads.

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

– The flood is such a tragic story — the drowning of millions of people and animals — and how strange it is that it’s always made into cute kids’ toys.

– Dr. Ralph Blair is a hardcore Christian evangelical. Ralph Blair is gay. And out-of-the-closet gay.

– Who are we to say that the Bible contained all the wisdom? You can commit idolatry on the Bible itself.

– Ancient Israelites didn’t have the clearly formed concept of immortality of the soul, as we do now.

– There is no scandal in supposing that Jesus married and had children. It is very doubtful historically, but not troubling theologically.

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

– There are thousands of fundamentalists who want to set up a biblical government. They are the American Taliban.

– Never blame a text from the Bible for your behavior. It’s irresponsible.

– The idea that we can work with God to evolve the Bible’s meaning — it’s a thrilling idea.

– I need something specific…Beauty is a general thing. It’s abstract. I need to see a rose. When I see that Jesus embraced lepers, that’s a reason for me to embrace those with AIDS. If He embraced Samaritans, that’s a reason for me to fight racism.

– The year showed me beyond a doubt that everyone practices cafeteria religion. It’s not just the moderates. Fundamentalists do it to. But the more important lesson was this: There’s nothing wrong with choosing. Cafeterias aren’t bad per se. The key is choosing the right dishes.

Buy the book.  Click HERE.




 

A Generous Orthodoxy March 22, 2012


A Generous Orthodoxy:
Why I am a missional, evangelical, post/protestant, liberal/conservative, mystical/poetic, biblical, charismatic/contemplative, fundamentalist/Calvinist, Anabaptist/Anglican, Methodist, catholic, green, incarnational, depressed- yet hopeful, emergent, unfinished Christian.


Wow.  That’s one l-o-n-g book title.  But that pretty much tells you the general material that’s covered in the pages of this book.
Rather than rejecting the various branches on the tree of “Christianity,” Brian McLaren looks for the good that each has contributed to our understanding of, and relationship with God.

This, my 5th McLaren book, was hard for me to get into, at first.  I had started to read it many months ago.  I ended up putting it back on the shelf and reading other books instead.  That difficulty was, I’m convinced, due mainly to all the reading before you ever get to “Chapter One.”  There are TWO forwards, an introduction, and what’s called “Chapter 0,” all before you start the first chapter of the book!  Anyway, once I committed to reading it, I found it fascinating, very interesting, and quite educational.

Indeed, Brian is generous in these pages.  Probably more so than I would have been.
That’s a good thing.
He acknowledges this generosity in discussing the “good”, but admits that much could be said regarding the  “bad and the ugly.”
But the focus here is what we can take with us as the journey and growth process continue.
Just as the ancient world emerged from the prehistoric world, and the medieval from the ancient, and the modern from the medieval, we are now emerging from the modern to the post-modern (which will likely be re-named by future generations).

With this emergence comes, as it always has, new understanding; new ways of thinking; new ways of being.  This includes a growth and expansion of how we perceive and relate to God.
When we grow up within a particular religious culture, we tend to believe that what we have is that which has been handed down “since the beginning.”
We have it “right,” and those other branches just missed it somewhere.

Well, this book helps us realize there has been a vast variety of “Christianities” throughout the ages.
The first chapter, titled “The 7 Jesuses I Have Known,” sets the stage for our journey of enlightenment through the potpourri of beliefs held by those who have sought to follow the leading of Christ.

There is rich, nuanced history here, of which I was predominantly unaware. I came away with a new understanding of many of the branches named in the expanded title of this book.
Without doubt, there’s enough bad “sap” in those branches (including those I was involved in) that I would not consider being a part of them, but I have a respect for the good in those traditions, as well as those who engage in them.

“A Generous Orthodoxy” is another great adventure in literature. It’s an exposition of where we’ve been, and a look at where, with God’s grace, we are heading.
– df

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

——

McLaren has worked to knock down barriers between Christians of different theological backgrounds by preaching that none of us has a handle on the whole truth.  Christianity is much broader than American Evangelicalism. Sometimes this is hard to grasp in a country where Evangelical has become synonymous with Christian.
– Matt Benzing

——

McLaren argues that all of the theological hair splitting misses the core message of Jesus.  I would challenge those like me in the evangelical circles to read this… not to confirm what we already believe… there are lots of books to do that… but to understand arguments outside our collective comfort zone. Whether you adopt McLaren’s conclusions or not, understanding the thought process can be a helpful exercise.
–  Paul Mullen
——

McLaren has given the church a gift- a way to think about theology that actually brings Christians together again, rather than forever splitting into smaller and smaller and smaller groups. Read it and see if you don’t find yourself challenged, taught and humbled.
– Bob Hyatt

Buy the book.  Click HERE.
——

From the back cover:

Whether you find yourself inside, outside, or somewhere on the fringe of Christianity, A Generous Orthodoxy draws you toward a way of living that looks beyond the “us/them” paradigm to the blessed and ancient paradox of “we.”

————

SOME QUOTES:

* The word God itself was reimagined through the experience of encountering Jesus.

* We’re here on a mission to join God in bringing blessing to our needy world.

* [We must] study not only the history of the church, but also the history of writing the church’s history.

* Anabaptist Christians, not unlike liberal Protestants, find the heart of the gospel in the teaching of Jesus. [They] focus on living out Jesus’ teachings about how we are to conduct our daily lives, especially in relation to our neighbors.

* I had met too many certified tongues-speaking Christians who were consistently dishonest, weird, unhealthy, and mean-spirited. Any understanding of being “Spirit-filled” that didn’t include helping people to become healthy, Christlike, and kind didn’t seem to be worth much.

* Most Christians kind of bottom-line everything to heaven or hell, and that makes life feel kind of cheap.

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

* The Jesus Movement, especially in its early days, was a truly wonderful thing. But all too soon [it] was co-opted. It was to a different Jesus that I was gradually converted.

* Yes, you can follow Jesus without identifying yourself as a Christian.

* Some Protestants seem to let Jesus be Savior, but promote Paul to lord and teacher.

* The emerging church has the potential of being to North American Christianity what Reformation Protestantism was to European Christianity. – Phyllis Tickle

* Jesus needs to be saved from Christians…
Can we trust Jesus to save himself from the mess we’ve made of his name, and in so doing, save Christianity?

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

* Christians are not the end users of the gospel

* Scripture is always a factor, but it is never sola. [It] is always in dialogue with tradition, reason, and experience.

* When the scripture talks about itself, it doesn’t use words like authority, inerrancy, infallibility, revelation, objective, absolute, and literal. Hardly anyone notices the irony of resorting to the authority of extrabiblical words and concepts to justify one’s belief in the Bible’s ultimate authority.

* The Bible is a story, and just because it recounts what happened, that doesn’t mean it tells what should always happen or even what should have happened.

* We must accept the coexistence of different faiths in our world willingly, not begrudgingly.

* We constantly emerge from what we were and are into what we can become – not just as individuals, but as participants in the emerging realities of families, communities, cultures, and worlds.

* To be in this creatio continua, this ongoing and emerging creation, in front of all this beauty and glory, meants that there can be no last word.


Buy the book.  Click HERE.


 

Heresy And Heretics June 3, 2010

The earth revolves around the sun. HERESY!
   (The Bible clearly teaches the sun rises and falls around the earth.)

The common man should have access to the scriptures.  HERESY!
   (The Catholic church said only professionals can understand the Bible.)

Persons with black skin should be treated as humans.  HERESY!
   (The KKK often held fundamentalist views and believed that the
   Anglo-Saxon Protestants were the DIVINE elite group who held the right to govern.)

Women are not possessions of their husbands.  HERESY!
   (We even need laws to state that women should get equal pay?!?!?)

     Galileo: HERETIC!
          Luther: HERETIC!
               Martin Luther King: HERETIC! (and Communist.)

Jesus Christ: HERETIC!

Jesus threatened the Pharisees foundational (fundamental?) beliefs to the very core, and
was Public Enemy #1 of the religious leaders.

History has proven, again and again, that the institutional church has
frequently labeled God’s prophets, and others speaking truth, as heretics.
Repeatedly, religion has had to be dragged, kicking and screaming, into the light of truth.
Anytime the status quo of it’s “authority” is questioned, challenged or threatened, rest assured,
it will be called heresy.

Knowing this, maybe we should look at who the church is railing against today.
   Bell.
      McLaren.
         Burke.
            Young.
Just to name a few.

Maybe, given the proven track record of the “church,” we should, at least,
give serious consideration to those whose teachings are currently being labeled as “heretical.”

From what I’ve seen, we need more heretics.  God bless the heretics.


— df

 

 
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