To inaugurate my new mission of blogging at least once a week I want to share a little bit about myself.
I grew up in a conservative—both theological and political—household. I grew up going to a place called First Colony Church of Christ. If you know anything about the Churches of Christ, then you know that they take the Bible super seriously, and while I think they could use a hermeneutic other than straight literalism, I appreciate their attempt to be faithful to God. Unfortunately, such a modernist view of the scriptures brings with it certain baggage such as competition called “Leadership Training for Christ (LTC)” which is just code for “Our students are more talented at random events tangentially connected to the Gospel than your students.” The events included chorus, song leading (what happens when you don’t use instruments), speech, puppets (all important for a good bible class for children), drama, and, most important of all, Bible Bowl.
Bible Bowl was, and is, a competition among teams of four students each who use large blocks with the letters A, B, C, and D on different sides to answer multiple choice trivia questions about whichever book of the Bible is the current theme of LTC. Your team sits in a line with each person sitting directly behind another team member. An official scorer scores your answers. There are two medals (yes, medals were given out for each of these events) given out for Bible Bowl. The first is the team medal (how well did your team do as a group) and the second is the individual medal (how well did you do). I assume you can deduce the problems with treating the Bible like a series of facts to be memorized and regurgitated on a multiple choice test. In any case, I not only won 2 gold medals every year in Bible Bowl, but I also NEVER MISSED A QUESTION! Think about that. I can answer just about any esoteric question you have about Second Kings, Genesis, Luke, or Revelation. Or, really, any surface level question about the Bible that assumes a modernist worldview which makes quantifiable facts the most important thing ever. This is the view of scripture I had until I was sixteen years old and, by accident, came into contact with Donald Miller.
Don taught me about the nature of story, the reality of a faith that has little to do with facts and everything to do with people, and the false assumption that we all live in a lifeboat in which we are constantly in danger of sinking and therefore need to toss other people out into the ocean. My quantifiable facts had taught me that if I persisted in sin (Read Hebrews 10:26 sometime) and didn’t obey God, then I would burn in Hell forever. I tried hard to obey God. I really did. It just didn’t seem to work. Then one day, a few months after being introduced to Don, I was confronted by my sin on a whole new level. My sin was disrupting God’s story for me. It was getting in the way of something better. I turned to Drew, the dude who had introduced me to Don, and confessed my sins. All Drew said was “the lifeboat doesn’t exist.” In that moment I encountered acceptance.
I have, since then, had formal classes on biblical interpretation, literary theory, and rhetorical criticism. I treat the Bible far differently than I did back when Bible Bowl was important to me and a lot of that is due to the men and women who teach at Abilene Christian University and have opened my eyes to a whole new world. But, the most important things I have come across come from both my relationships with people and being part of a community that genuinely pursues God. The two most important things I have learned are the following:
- There is something better. Not sinning was never the point. Obeying was never the point. The point is that God has something better. God has a fullness of life waiting for those who will let Him write their stories. He wants to introduce us to new characters. He wants us to explore new places. He wants us to have a meaningful life. That meaningful life is found only in Him.
- There is acceptance. The Kingdom of God is about accepting others. The end. The lifeboat is a lie dreamed up to keep us at each others’ throats. As Richard Beck has pointed out in his latest blog entry, othering opposes the Kingdom of God more than anything else. It is the root of all sin.
So, that’s where I am at in a nutshell. That is where I am coming from as I engage the world of ideas and people. “Love God and love others” is not merely the “Jesus creed” as Scot McKnight points out, but it is the way we were meant to live. No matter what disagreements or problems may arise between me and others, those disagreements are to be filtered through the life-giving story God is telling about us. As I engage the world of ideas and people more coherently (and adversarially, no doubt) as a regular blogger, I want to keep in mind the ideas of better and acceptance.