Friday, May 23, 2008

"unstoppable" from John Frye

What would it be like to have all the word of God seen on the face of the earth, gone (except for Esther and Genesis)? What impact might this have? In John Frye's wonderful story telling ability we read about what could happen if that was the case in his new book: Out of Print: A Novel.

Again these are very real people, down to earth, and John knows people well, a pastor for over thirty years. After the "unthinkable" had happened, followed by a period when people are at a loss to understand why ("unexplainable") we now see another miracle taking place, but in a different direction. From consternation and fear, we see God's word prevailing through people all over the world who had committed it to memory. In the effort most of the Bible was retrieved, including its original languages of Hebrew and Greek, as well as its translation into worldwide languages. The interest in hearing God's word recited by his people was a phenomenon in reading rooms all over the world. And people who would not have darkened the doors of a church were interested and listening. Even the Islamic scholars, who had suggested that the disappearance of the Jewish and Christian Scriptures was a judgment by Allah, were taken back by what had unfolded before them.

Towards the end of the chapter John describes through the conversation of tthe Christian friends in the story much of what John is getting at in telling this story. That in hearing God's word read out loud, people can begin to hear God's voice to them. And that the word of God and God's work through it is more important than our theological differences as Christians.

In the words of Harold Johnson, the evangelical professor in the story:
The Bible simply being recited has become a magnet for human attention. The way Jews are showing an interest in the New Testament and Christians are needing the Jews for the Old Testament is uncanny. Catholic and Protestant scholars are developing a deep respect for each other as they work together to have just the Bible itself accessible. The profound Christian-Jewish, Protestant-Catholic-Orthodox cooperation has caught the attention of the Muslim world. Something truly greater than our differences is causing us to communicate with each other. (p. 66)
Another important quote from Pastor Steve in the story:
The watching world is taking note of the love that Christians and Jews have for their Scriptures. The Bible is not being used anymore to harangue and judge and belittle and ostracisize others. It is simply being spoken and lived out by people who deeply treasure it. The Bible was meant to be a lived Book, not just a learened Book. Maybe it's as simple as "A love letter needs to be read in a loving way." (p. 71)
There are some parts of the story that need to be resolved. Like all the loving, painstaking work done by the husband and wife team, Hank and Karla. How God used the disappearance of his word in Luci's life and her leaving Wayne, her boyfriend because of that, since he has no interest in what she has found and wants the old Luci back. Some good story lines, and if you get a chance to meet John, you'll see the love and humanness which he has cast in this story and its fictional characters of very real people.

I really like what John is getting at in this story and I'm trying to "get it" better myself. And I haven't even uncovered all the themes in the chapter, like the difference between God and the Book of God. And yet how important that Book is as God's word to the world in Jesus.

This chapter alone has plenty of fodder for good discussion, and for a deeper appreciation of this wonderful gift we have from God, in Scripture. And one thing that comes out to me loud and clear is that nothing can stop God's word and his work of love in Jesus and we best get in line with it, and find our place in this Story of God. It is truly unstoppable!

What hits you about this chapter or what is said here or from the book itself? What would you like to say about this?

1. unthinkable
2. unexplainable

Next week: chapter 4: "unsurpassable".


preacherman said...

I love your blog.
I learn so much and it has help me see God and faith in a different light. It is wonderful to see what God can do in this world and even us.
Ted, I hope you have a blessed weekend brother.

Anonymous said...

i need to catch up in my reading and then i might be able to comment.


Ted M. Gossard said...

Preacherman, Thanks.

Nancy, I look forward to your thoughts once you do.

L.L. Barkat said...

I've always thought that the whole message of the bible could be found in Genesis. For that matter, Leviticus too. Oh, and Isaiah. (Hmmm... pattern here?) Anyway, God shines through all books within the bible.

Interesting to consider, too, that in certain parts of the world, this is exactly how it is. Communities have one or two books of the bible in their midst. Or they pass around single pages, trading after memorizing them. And much is passed orally.

Ted M. Gossard said...

What an interesting comment, L.L., and I agree. With just this one caveat (that means necessary addition, I think, though I ought to look it up since I've never read its definition!):

We read in the New Testament that Jesus comes as the fulfillment of all that was written before in the Scriptures, so what you say here is so true. And it didn't look like what the Jews in their varied expressions of faith and hope, thought it would look like.

And Paul writes about the revelation of the mystery (musterion in the Greek transliterated, I think), or secret which had not been made known in other ages as it is now made known concerning God's plan in Jesus to bring all together in Jesus as the people of God (through faith underlied by grace of course).

So all we need is Genesis or any other Biblical book, pretty much (Nahum? Ha.) to share the gospel with any people.

While the revelation in Jesus and the gospel was likewise needed, which in itself was a fulfilment of all of that.

Now I know you know this, L.L. Yet I my not express it just right or may somehow be off here, but as far as I know, this is right.

Anonymous said...

just read it and still digesting.

Anonymous said...

i like the way that relationship became important. and the way that the walls that normaly divide people of faith came down so that the Love of God could be shared.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Me too, Nancy.

I found it interesting, some of the dynamics going on, like Christians being dependent on Jewish people to get the Old Testament and Jewish people taking a genuine interest in the New Testament.