it is not what you think

“If you read the Bible, it will mess with your theology.”
Pastor Bill Lepley,
Grabill Missionary Church
September 28, 2008

That showed up early in the sermon last Sunday. Hope and I looked at each other. Hope and Nancy and I all wrote it down.

Theology is, most simply,  the study of God. We all have a theology, an understanding of God, or at least of god.. We’re formed this understanding through study and conversation and life. We’ve arrived at it through good and lousy experiences, through odd people, through responses to and reactions against.

I want to narrow the discussion for a bit. If our theology talks at all about the God that is identified in the Bible, then we have arrived at several conclusions in our theology. We may say that we don’t believe in that God. We may say that we believe that God to be a certain way (loving, violent, distant, personal, arbitrary, confusing). We may say that we believe completely in that God.

Whatever our theology, it is likely that reading the Bible will be remarkably disruptive. Many of us have sampled, and form our conclusions on the sampling. Many of us have heard things second hand. Many of us have read as if a list of rules or boring essay.

But what if it is actually a collection of love letters? What if it is actually a collection of stories? What if it is actually a Story still being written?

What if…I actually read it?


6 responses to “it is not what you think

  1. Brilliant, just brilliant! Thank you Pastor Bill.

    I was also caught be the comment…’Hope and Nancy and I all wrote it down’. I do wonder what it would be like to be writing down my thoughts at Mass…hmm.

  2. I’m always astonished at those who call themselves Christians but tend to only pull bits and pieces of the Bible and then judge others based on their limited knowledge. Much of the Bible is written metaphorically, to make you ‘think’. Some of the Bible is mistranslated in English, so understanding the original words is important and the variations of them.

    I look at the Bible as a tool on my lifelong journey. It’s there to help me be a better person, not to ignore and mistreat those who choose a different path. Who are we to judge?

    Great quote, great post!

  3. A group of us were talking about this very thing at lunch today.

    “What if it is actually a collection of love letters? What if it is actually a collection of stories?” How much of Scripture seems to always come back to relationship or story?

  4. Rob – my attention span makes writing incredibly helpful. (I can also make notes for posts, for teaching).

    Douglas – there is this standard of being judged by the measure we use. A tough standard. A good reminder.

    So you are looking at it not as a baseball bat but as a coach?

    Amy – Given how many of the words are story/narrative or personal messages (“Tell Mark to hurry” “Say hi to everyone that’s at your house”, we tend to fall short of the model when we get stuck on lists.

  5. If your theology is not changing, growing, then you’re not living growing. You’ve stagnated. And that’s terribly uncomfortable for us. In visiting with people going through crisis, I often find that they are finding that their old image of God (theology) has been broken, and that they’re having to develop a new image, which leads not only to new and hopefully improved theology, but significant spiritual growth.

    And we’ll never have the “right” image or theology in this life — just our current understanding through the lens we have available.

    Thanks for the post, Jon, and the chance to think by writing a response!

  6. And Jim, I’m discovering that you have spent time with people in life crises, holding hands, being present, thinking beyond the easy trite answers.

    “Just our current understanding through the lens we have available” a wonderful picture. Thanks.