Friday, May 16, 2008

"unexplainable" from John Frye

Hit with the unthinkable, the Bible's text disappearing everywhere, Christians are left with the question, "What on earth is going on?" This is from chapter 2, "Unexplainable" in John Frye's book, Out of Print: A Novel.

We see a pastor trying to grapple with this problem. His whole ministry was about helping people understand the word of God through his teaching. What would he do now that the entire Bible had disappeared (except for Esther and Genesis 34)? His little five year old son reassures his daddy that he'll be a good pastor, and lets him know that he still prays to Jesus. The pastor feels lost, but in the Sunday service the shaken congregation's faith seems to come alive, as he leads them in reciting Psalm 23. And they find various ones in their midst who have memorized other psalms.

Muslim scholars gather and decide that the best tentative explanation they can come up with is that Allah has done this to judge the Christians and Jews for wrongs done against Muslims through the centuries to this day. A televangelist to keep the money coming in lets people know that Jesus told him that the devil stole the word, relating that to Jesus' parable of the sower where the devil steals the word before it can take root in people's hearts. The seminary professor in conference with other Christian and Biblical scholars simply doesn't know, but casts doubt on the idea that the devil could do something that God promised would never be done.

I wonder about us here in the United States. We have access to so many different translations, renderings and editions of the Bible. What do we do with this great gift we have? What if all the sudden it disappeared, no more words to read of it anywhere? What would we make of that? And indeed something of the same has happened in countries in which the Bible was prohibited. The accounts show many whose faith became strengthened and to whom God's word became more precious than ever. But why? And how? And what is involved in that?

You are left hanging after this chapter, wondering what might come next. Though some light is beginning to break through as people begin to see the importance of God's word, Scripture, being hidden in their heart, in their memory- establishing their relationship with God and life in the world. And how in that Jesus is central, as a small group led by the pastor sings He is Lord .

John knows people well, a pastor for nearly 30 years in one church and pastoring again. These fictional people come to life and are as real as you and me, as well as the problem they face. I'm left intrigued and wondering just what this means for us who often lazily read our Bibles and find the words at times tedious and all too familiar.

What about us? What does the Bible mean to us? What place does it have in our hearts and lives? How might we be misusing the Bible, or missing the point in our use of it? Or for some of us, why do we neglect the Bible at times? Could there be a good time for setting it aside temporarily? Why or why not?

These and other questions we can ask as we ponder this chapter. It's a time of hurt and pain in the story. But often those times are times of needed change.

What thoughts might you have on this, or possible explanations to the "unexplainable"?

1. unthinkable

Next week: chapter 3, "Unstoppable"


preacherman said...

Wonderful post Ted.
I love reading John Fryes stuff.
He has been such a blessing to my spiritual life.
His blog is one of the best that is out there for believers to read. (Of course next to yours :-)!). Thank you so much for sharing this with us all. I have been blessed to say the least.
Ted, I pray and hope you have a blessed weekend.
Kinney Mabry

Ted M. Gossard said...

Thanks, Kinney. Haha. You're too generous. I appreciate your blog as well, brother.

I almost wish I could rewrite this post. If time (and strength as of yesterday) would permit, I would.

For me, for my spiritual life, the Scriptures are so central.

A question we might ask is- Does the Church in Jesus exist because of the Scriptures, God's word, OR Does Scripture exist because of the Church, whom God chose, his people, to give them to us?

There might be a kind of circularity going on here for us to think about, a dynamic that's important for our understanding and appreciation of them.

The Bible is just as a human book as it is of God. We need to see that it's more than human, yet to understand that it is as human as any of us is helpful too. It meets us right where we live, in all our weakness and sin. As well as in our hopes and aspirations.

It is meant to be more than a help to us, yet we so easily lose sight of what it is meant to be for us.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Woops. I meant to put all that is after the first paragraph in the preceeding comment here. It was meant to be addressed to all.

I just hope we can think together about what John is trying press home. I need it as much as anyone.

Different perspectives on this would be so helpful.

Martin Stickland said...

beer, BEar, beAR, bEER, beeR, shbeeeer!!!

It mushed be fwiday shnight .. hic

I head ten for you my friend!

Rachel Mc said...

"The bible is just as a human book as it is of God" That is very powerful to me today. I do go thru times when I just can't read the bible, I guess I just get spiritually exhausted. But I did read somewhere that in those times you need to keep reading, because something will come out of it.
Of all the talents I could have had; painting, singing, sewing, being a great athlete..I wish I was a great writer. To write a book that will impact people and last years after you are gone..impacting many generations..that is the greatest talent anyone can have.
I have learned it is very helpful and encouraging to me me to read the bible and discuss it with someone. I appreciate how you put an appropriate bible verse through out your blog. I usually underline one in my bible, then think about it all day.
I think God gave us the bible to connect us all to each other and to God. Words really are the most powerful source of strength, and language connects every one in the world.

Rachel Mc said...

" I think as we look at life as an ongoing conversation with God through the word, through his people, through life's troubles and triumphs, then I think we get more towards a life of prayer, towards getting in tune for that."
Ted, excellent. I wrote it down and will refer to it often.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Martin, my friend. Good to hear from you. I need to get over to your blog, will do so a little later. Save one for me.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Many good thoughts you share and I agree. We can leave a legacy with our words as well as our lives.

Your really ought to start a blog. Just type what's on your heart. Visit other blogs and you'll be in a blogging fellowship.

Some prefer Wordpress. I like Blogger and they've upgraded. They're free as well, though I guess in some matters if you want to do them with Wordpress, you have to pay. Click the B on the top left of my blog and it will take you where you can get in. Take your time and go through it as you please. Email me if you have any questions. But just a little push to consider it. You may not want to yet, but with your love of reading and writing you'd make a good blogger, which you are already anyhow.

And you've been over at "Jesus Creed" I see. Interesting over there.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Also Rachel, I should thank you for your kind words and encouragement. Thanks.

Ted M. Gossard said...

As I sit here in the living room, trying to stay awake to type a post for Saturday, I want to add to what I've been saying to you here, Rachel:

Don't feel at all like you are going to be off if you decide you don't want to have your own blog. That would be a mistake. I just took your love for reading and writing along with what you have shared with us on comments as an indication that you're perfectly capable of joining in the fun along with the seriousness in it, in this way. I think I blogged a year before I did that, and we're all different according to so many variables, as to how we choose to use our time.

Just wanted to add that.

Every Square Inch said...

I think any pastor who feels lost and unsure when the Bible goes missing has the makings of a good pastor. We should feel lost without scripture...the fact that many of us could function without feeling lost is an indictment of our spiritual shallowness.

Rachel is right though - when we don't feel like reading the Word is exactly when we should press in and read because God will be faithful to reward us.

Ted M. Gossard said...

I agree. We should indeed feel lost, and yes- we must keep right on reading especially when we don't feel like it.

I also think John is getting to a point which while it will never nullify our need for the written word of God, Scripture, is getting to the point of the dynamic Scripture is to have in our lives by the Spirit in the new covenant. Without ever denying our need to be meditatively in the word of God day and night (Psalm 1).