Monday, August 13, 2007

Bible reading as God's guidance versus a lawbook

In reference to my recent post on freedom, Scot McKnight e-mailed me back the following reply (I take the liberty of sharing this):
The point is actually significant: reading the Bible as God's guidance vs. a lawbook is a big deal. If we listen to the Spirit we will do the sort of thing that is now found in Scripture.
Without getting into David's thinking as we did a bit on that previous post, let's think about Scot's reply to me on e-mail on this.

I think Scot was simply saying that this raises a good and important point, and I agree: that there's a significant difference in reading Scripture as a law book and being bound to it in that way, and in reading Scripture as guidance from God, in a kind of dynamic, interactive, relational, life-orienting manner.

This brings into play whether our Scripture reading has to do with our loving God with all our being and doing, as well as loving our neighbor as ourselves. Is it a practice of love, and a relational one at that? And really first of all God reaching into our lives on our level, in Christ, right where we live, to bring his love by redemption, renewal and reconciliation into this world in and through even us.

If it's just a rule book for me to obey and judge others by, then I'm surely missing the point. The Bible is meant to be from God in a way that engages us in good relationship to God and to others, in the way of Jesus, and calls others in this love, into that same relationship.

Scot is not at all saying that there are no commands to obey; if anyone thinks so they've neither read Scot, or more importantly the New Testament. But in Christ by the Spirit God's word is a word of grace to us, showing us our need, but drawing us to faith and obedience from the heart, to be followers together of God in this world.

Another important dynamic in this is that of the Spirit of God: what part the Spirit plays in our reading of Scripture. God's word is living and powerful because it is a word breathed out from God by the Spirit. We need to take these words in that way, meant to penetrate into our very beings and change our lives as we seek to let this word have its way in our lives, in leading us increasingly into the good will of God in Christ.

These words from the Bible are meant to guide us as God's word, not to come down on us as a law that we seek to apply to ourselves and others. Rather it is bringing our story into the light of God's story so that we can find our identities and stories increasingly shaped by the good story of God in Christ. This is carried on right up to this present time, and will reach the goal of this new creation, of which our lives as part of this old creation, in Jesus, are also a part of now.

What would you say about seeing the Bible as God's guidance versus God's law for us? What difference does this make?


NaNcY said...

this is beyond definition. it is living, breathing word of God. read it, listen to the Holy Spirit, and continually be in prayer. the Holy Spirit can use this in many ways that we can not even fathom. it can not be explained in a way that satisfies everyone. the Spirit speaks to each of us as the Spirit sees fit. we are to listen and obey.

Kim said...

I think it's important to make the distinction between "works" that we might work thinking that we thereby become acceptable in God's sight versus Mt 5:16 works: "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven." This might be part of the distinction between guidance and law.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Nancy, Good words. Thanks.

Kim, Good point. It then is an empty exercise when we look at Scripture as law as opposed to guidance and grace.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Nancy, I want to add that I appreciate your point about the Spirit working in ways we can't fathom. And really all of it. There's that element of mystery; we can rest assured in God's good work and not think we have to figure it all out, because we really never can, or ever will be able to, anyhow.

L.L. Barkat said...

Law can certainly be the beginning of guidance. And I surely need that.

But mostly I read the bible as a love letter. And it grips my heart, my affections and my intentions.

Ted M. Gossard said...

L.L., As usual, good points from you. Law does have its place in this story, and it's a very important place. Though the story as a whole is about the love of God to humankind and to creation, I believe, which certainly includes each of us.

RonMcK said...

I wonder if you are not confusing laws and rules in this post. The question you are asking is should we treat the Bible as a rulebook. I think the answer to that is No. Jesus never gave the impression that he was living by a set of rules. He focussed on doing what the saw the Father doing.

Nevertheless, there are plenty of rules in the NT. The reality is that rules can be helpful to new Christians. Do not lie, may be a useful rule for a new Christian who was a chronic liar. However, every Christian should quickly move beyond rules and onto doing what the Father is doing and following the voice of the Spirit.

I do not play golf, but it provides a useful analogy. A new golfer may focus on staying out of the rough. Avoid that tree. Avoid that lake. As the golfer increases in skills, their focus will move to going up the centre of the fairway, getting well placed for the next shot and landing on the green. Playing along the edge of the rough will not make you a good golfer.

Likewise, a new Christian may have a focus on avoiding doing things the things that controlled their old life. This may help them to make quick progress. However, they should quickly move to a more positive focus on seeing what God is doing in every situation. They should move to being motivated by love of Jesus, rather than fear of failing.

On the issue of law, the Bible is not a law-book, but it does not contain law. Christians do not live by laws, but society does need laws. The Bible provides the laws that society needs.


Ted M. Gossard said...

Ron, I do trek with your point here, I believe.

Scripture is meant by God to guide us, but it does that with law in it, to be sure. I think the lawbook aspect is a kind of rule oriented religion instead of a relational one. The relational one with God and others, certainly does not dump law out of the Book (including, of course, the New Testament). And we need all that is in the Book.