I have come to see that being “biblical” about things does not matter to most people. Of course if you are not even a Christian, then sure. But even if you are, it means less and less all the time. I find Christians discussing things without reference to a Bible all the time. (I will come back to that.).
Still, I sense there is more to being “biblical” than just citing a passage of Scripture that SEEMS to support your assertion. This means there are different ways and depths to being “biblical” if we get right down to it, some of more value than others. But that is a case for another time. At the moment, I just want to say that being “biblical” at all, is better than not, yet it is the starting place so few Christians, in my experience, even value at all anymore.
I grew up in a faith heritage that liked to call ourselves “people of the book” a long time ago. Several Protestant faith groups prized this ideal, but few took it to the levels we did. And while I see that the particular way(s) we championed that ideal had some fatal flaws in it, I find it ironic that even in my own faith heritage today, there is so very little sense of the ideal anymore.
Probably this is the result of reactionary embarrassment. My heritage became hard to get along with, and largely because of the way we viewed being “biblical” and the way the dust settled between us and others because of it. And so I recall when I was a kid that my Mom, for a time, taught the Bible class I was in, and did so mostly with a copy of Reader’s Digest in her hand and a few emotionally charged stories from her personal life (or occasionally in the media). Very little attempt was made to “tie in” these things to the Bible study itself.
In my Jr. High years, this seemed almost refreshing, and I think the other kids felt it too. But the fact that we very quietly set aside the Bible during Bible study time and favored emotional stories over it, I think represents a subtle shift in the larger church culture. And it all happened in my “formative years”.
In more recent years, and since I received a formal Bible education, I have witnessed Bible study fads come and go – such as The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren. You don’t hear too much about it anymore, but a year or two after that book was published and started making its splash, the publisher began offering the Forty Days of Purpose study guide, and soon there were Purpose Driven journals, coffee mugs, key chains, Bible covers… you name it, and it was suddenly Purpose Driven!
The book was Spiritual in nature and was peppered all through with Bible quotations, but they were stitched together in Warren’s theological construct, to guide a spiritual experience he developed, meaning these quotations were largely lifted out of their original context and planted back into this marketing bonanza context instead.
Around that same time there were other fads topping the Best Seller lists: Prayer of Jabez, Left Behind, Frank Peretti, and more. For a while there, it was good to be in the Christian Bookstore Retail Business, and all these books were outselling the Bible. And every Bible study I visited seemed to be “studying” one of these books.
It got worse.
I remember visiting a church in Seattle around that time that had jumped on another fad where the Bible class gathered round a big screen viewing of The Andy Griffith Show, and after watching a brief episode, we would have a discussion time about how to apply the lessons in it to both the Bible and to our lives.
And in each phase of this, the Bible itself got a little more left behind all the time. It became a little more foreign, a little less helpful. If I didn’t have a quote from Rick Warren and the context in which he used it, then I didn’t have much to say that resembled being “biblical”.
In more recent times, I joined a Bible class at church called Seeking Shalom that is intended to help us nice, white, middle-class Christians to understand poverty better and equip us to help the poor. TO BE FAIR, there was several places in this study course where a Bible was opened and a passage analyzed. So I am not claiming it was entirely devoid of it. But there were several sessions where it was omitted in favor of some insight originating elsewhere, and some of these insights became the guiding light around which we attempted to attach some Bible bits from time to time. (We effectively did for ourselves what Rick Warren had done for us in the past, I think.)
I remember a session where the concern was that if we air drop food to these starving people, we will put local rice farmers out of business.
Think about that a minute.
It sounds really wise and all, very insightful. . .
. . . if your guiding principle is to grow an economy. But what if your guiding principle is to be “biblical” in some sense?
Do we see Jesus feed hungry people?
Does he show any concern about putting local rice farmers out of business?
But this is how we spend our time “Seeking Shalom” as a Bible class where I go to church.
I think we need to “get back to the Bible”, as we used to say.
I fully concur that just that simple phrase alone does not really address the problem. But I am also sure that gutting it of its meaning is a greater disservice.
Think about it.