Thursday, July 20, 2006

The Nature and Purpose of Scripture

Scripture, as we have received it, has a particular nature and particular purposes. It is in fact a tool given to us to eventuate in some anticipated end. Regardless of our positions on textual criticism, on whether the Canon is the canon, the actual authorship of any particular writing, or the historicity of Scripture and its record as such, Scripture demands that it be taken seriously. To that end, I offer the following observations.

The nature of Scripture is what makes it much more than just another set of writings. Our belief that at least some aspect of its writing, development, and collation lies in the very person of God, requires that we consider what it says with considerably more weight than the writings of our favorite philosopher or devotional writer. If God has decided to speak to us, we need to listen.

However, Scripture also has a purpose. Perhaps the most famous self-explanatory passages is 2 Timothy 3.16. Or again, Paul’s statement that the purpose of various ministers is to build up the body (corporately and individually) into its fullness. Clearly Scripture is sufficient for Godly lives. Herein we find the ultimate purpose of Scripture, that we will become the images of God once again.

Scripture it seems has three purposes or aspects that are intended to issue in Timothy’s purpose. Scripture is revelation, it is a guide, and it is reminder. Scripture reveals the God of the Universe, the creator of everything. It tells us a few things about our God that we would do well to remember. That our God’s primary characteristic is love. We are also told that He is just, merciful, steadfast, patient, holy, giving, omniscient, omnipresent, all-powerful, and spirit. We are told that after creating the world, God so loved it that He sent His Son to die in order to clear the way for Man’s return to God. Scripture also reveals a history of God’s relationship with Man. This history is not intended to be complete but is bounded by the three purposes we have identified. This history describes the characteristics of God as they exist in our world, it provides guidelines and illustrations of what God expects of people, and it serves as a reminder of God’s interaction with Man. While this revelation of God would be important if it was for its own sake, it isn’t. The purpose of God’s revelation is to show us who we are to be. We are made in His likeness and He expects we will remain so.

Scripture as guide has a specific purpose and that is to illustrate to us what kind of people God expects us to be. Couched sometimes in national language, sometimes in community phrases, and sometimes in individualistic words, the point remains the same: God made us for, and expects us to be, people like Him. Scripture is not primarily a text on nation building, Temple worship, church organization, or relationship development, although aspects of all those can be found in Scripture. They are there not for their own purpose, but to guide us in ordering our relationship with God and in shaping ourselves to be like Him.

Scripture as reminder is critical. We have Scripture in writing so that we can remind ourselves of its message. That message is embodied in the revelatory and guide aspects of Scripture, and is essentially simple and uncomplicated. Our God, as powerful as He may be, has demonstrated Himself faithful and gracious time and time again. He seeks to bless others, and expects us to become like Him. We fail to do so at our peril.

Scripture then has an overriding purpose characterized in three ways. It provides us everything we need to live lives that embody our God. This is the ultimate goal of Scripture. To achieve that goal, Scripture serves as a revelation of our God, a guide that provides us insights into what being Godlike might look like in our world, and a reminder of who our God is, His interaction in the world including His mercy, steadfastness, and wrath. Scripture then is a tool and has no end in itself. Knowing Scripture is only profitable if we become it. The mark of a mature Christian is not one who can quote Scripture or who can intone well in an assembly, but rather one who embodies and who can explain our God.

Scripture is a tool. A divine tool, but a tool just the same. It does not exist for itself but rather to guide us back to where we were made to be – in the presence of our God, living lives that reflect His goodness. If we elevate Scripture to a place that ignores its purpose, that makes the tool our end, we do violence to it and are endanger of alienating ourselves from our God.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Road Trip

Just got back from South Carolina....3400 miles round trip in six days - with two dedicated to family stuff and sightseeing. I feel like standing up all day!

Got to drive through the Smokey Mountains, along I-40. On the way it stormed up a storm! Couldn't see past the end of the car's hood! Neat man! Neat! The Smokeys are beautiful and the fog just adds to the ambiance.

Time with family is of most importance, and we got two days to visit and enjoy each other. Met one son's girlfriend and got to harrass her for a while. She's a sport so she passed.

As good as the trip was, there were some issues that developed, and I'd like the states involved to fix these before my next road trip:

The interstate system was made to get lots of traffic from point A to point B quickly. The idea of a maximum speed of only 70 is pointless. My cars will easily do more than a hundred, and so let's look at boosting that speed limit some. Is there really any difference between the interstates or the traffic in say, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and Oklahoma? None. Zilch. Nada. So, it'd be nice if the two slow states could get with the program and at least meet New Mexico's and Arizona's speed limits.

What's the deal with Arkansas drivers that camp in the left lane? I thought only Louisiana drivers did that. Guys, if you have a line of cars behind you that stretches to the next state, MOVE OVER!

On a similar note, I'd like to propose a federal law that would require anyone in the left lane to be moving at least five miles an hour faster than the folks in the lane immediately to their right. Enough of these road blocks because "I'm going the speed limit" or "I have my car on cruise." Pretend like driving requires some actual mental activity and awareness of what's going on around you.

Thank you.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Spiritual Formation

Christians, among other things, are told to tell others about our God. Having told them, we are to train them in the way of our God. Individual Christians, through mentoring and friendship, as well as the church through its ministries of grace and teaching, contribute to the maturing and growth of disciples. Paul’s admonition that we should allow God to transform us into His likeness indicates the individual disciple’s part in becoming Christlike.

Spiritual formation is an on-going, life-long pursuit and service for ourselves and others. The demand of spiritual formation affect every aspect of our lives – personal, marital, familial, vocational. If the Christian life, if our submission to God, if our transformation, is worth anything, it must include our very being.

Spiritual formation then is not something else Christians do. We don’t go to church, engage in ministry, worship God, and then do some spiritual formation work. Rather, like all these others, spiritual formation is what we are about, it is our life. But more than the others, spiritual formation gives the others their legitimacy. If we are not transformed, if we are not being transformed, the other things we do are pointless.

Much of Paul’s pastoral writings and all of Jesus’ teaching are aimed at transforming people’s lives, calling us and exampling for us the surrendering of self, and what God-following looks like. As is obvious, spiritual formation is not new, and in fact goes far behind the coming of Jesus on this earth. God has always wanted His followers to be like Him. Micah 6.6-8 sums up what God wants from His followers and summarizes the teachings in the Old and New Testaments including those from Jesus and Paul. It reads something like this: “And what does the Lord require of you? He has shown you oh man: to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” Spiritual formation is simply the process through which we approach God’s expectations for us. The result of spiritual formation is comprehensive Godlike lives lived in submission to Him.

Welcome and legal mumbojumbo

Welcome to my corner of cyberspace! Make yourself at home and enjoy a few minutes of reading. Everything here (text and pictures), unless otherwise indicated, is original and enjoys copyright protection. For re-use information, please contact me directly.

Information provided here is simply the creation of the author and is not intended as life advice, counseling, or therapy for anyone else. The use of any information found on this site is entirely at the discretion of the reader as they see fit for themselves. The author makes no claims to any particular expertise, experience, or training appropriate to justify basing any life, career, or any other type of decision on any of it.