On my www.facebook.com/grantnorsworthy page, I often like to share quotes that have piqued my interest, challenged or moved me in some way. Recently, one of my posted quotes inspired me to write a response that I hope is BLOG worthy.
MY FACEBOOK POST:
“We must never underestimate our power to be wrong when talking about God, when thinking about God, when imagining God, whether in prose or in poetry.” Brian McLaren, from “A Generous Orthodoxy”
I agree with Brian, but I think I always do what he says I must never do. I believe it’s better to say that I am always underestimating how wrong I might be about God rather than judge for myself whether or not I am underestimating. The moment I think I have estimated correctly, surely that indicates that I am wrong.
TWO COMMENTS ADDED TO THAT POST:
One reader commented…
“The Word of God is our instruction manual and truth is found within it’s pages.”
and, from another…
“You can’t go wrong with the word of God, providing you use it in context. Without it all we would have is our imagination and knowing God would be an impossible and frightening endeavor with disastrous results. See Ezekiel 13:1-7”
My friends made comments that indicate a position, or belief about The Bible that I think is unhelpful and in error. Maybe I’m just too contrary for my own good, but here’s what I wrote to them, and share with you now:
Thanks for your input and comments… but since you’ve left them on my wall, I feel compelled to comment. I don’t fully agree with what you’ve written.
I think I know what you mean, but I believe that Brian McLaren (and me too, because I shared his quote) is trying to warn us against exactly the position you are stating. I’d say what you are trying to say more like this:
The “Word Of God” is Jesus Himself (John 1). He is the Lord of my life and He is lovingly showing me that I must surrender my life completely to His Lordship. The Bible is perhaps better thought of as the WRITTEN word of God and a primary “portal” through which God communicates to me and all who would study it. Unfortunately, my interpretation of the scripture is often flawed and faulty and I am usually unaware of my own flawed interpretation. So, rather than seeing the Bible as an instruction manual for MY life, I recognize that the Word of God (God Himself) want’s me to lay down MY life – and surrender to His will.
I think of God/Jesus/the Holy Spirit as the north point of the compass – drawing me upwards and to Himself: in my heart/mind/spirit/conscience, speaking through His creation, my relationships, events, dreams and in any other way He wants to. The Bible is like the south point of the compass that will always align with the leading I sense from God through the voice of His Holy Spirit. If they do not SEEM to align, then I have misunderstood and must have the humility to recognize that. [Thank you God for the voice of The Helper AND The Bible because I can so easily misinterpret either or both!]
It is easier than we realize to worship our interpretation of the Bible rather than worshiping God Himself. (This last sentence is my version of something Bill Johnson wrote). If we want to see the fruit of the early church today, we must not overvalue our interpretation of The Bible – a book they did not have – and undervalue The Holy Spirit whom they did have.
And thanks for sharing the Ezekiel passage. it is a stark warning about how we can so easily go off the rails thinking we know what “God said” to us. I am sure that happens a lot when people think they have heard from the Holy Spirit. But that can be done with a Bible in the hand of the misinterpreter as well.
Ezekiel 13:1-7 (NIV) – False Prophets Condemned
The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, prophesy against the prophets of Israel who are now prophesying. Say to those who prophesy out of their own imagination: ‘Hear the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Woe to the foolish prophets who follow their own spirit and have seen nothing! Your prophets, Israel, are like jackals among ruins. You have not gone up to the breaches in the wall to repair it for the people of Israel so that it will stand firm in the battle on the day of the Lord. Their visions are false and their divinations a lie. Even though the Lord has not sent them, they say, “The Lord declares,” and expect him to fulfill their words. Have you not seen false visions and uttered lying divinations when you say, “The Lord declares,” though I have not spoken?
To be sure, when Chapter 13 of Ezekiel starts with the words “The word of the Lord came to me”, the prophet was not reading The Bible at the time. The Bible did not yet exist! Nor was Ezekiel reading other scripture. This story would later become scripture. He is saying that God Himself spoke to him and through him. What God says and who He is are the same thing. (Read John 1) Understanding this will help a great deal as we read the Bible which, if we are sincere followers of Jesus – we should do.
I agree with what you said about not going wrong with The Bible “providing you use it in context” in your comment. But I am trying to say that we can NEVER be certain that we are using The Bible in the right context. Otherwise we are become just like the Pharisees – relying on our interpretation of scripture rather than the Word Of God Himself.
In John 5 from verse 37 onwards, Jesus says this to the Pharisees who studies scripture more than you and me put together (I’d guess) yet did not recognize Jesus as the Savior – The Word Of God:
“And the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me. You have never heard his voice nor seen his form, nor does his WORD dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent. You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.” John 5:37-40 (NIV)