Tuesday, December 4, 2012

We're Going to Study...

This post is about what my church will do next for its Bible study.  I was going to do a series, but I've decided not to do so, unless you can count two posts as a series!

As I said yesterday, one curriculum that we were looking at was essentially an apologetic for the Bible: an attempt to defend the Bible's divine-inspiration from detractors.  My problem with that is that I don't think that one can prove the Bible's divine-inspiration.  Not only can evidence be interpreted in a multitude of ways, but how would one even prove that God inspired a document?  You'd first have to prove that there's a God!

Dr. Daniel Wallace appears in the documentary, and I ordered one of his books because I'd like to consider his arguments and perhaps blog through them.  But I'd prefer to do that in the privacy of my own home rather than in a group.  In terms of Bible study groups, I don't like to be beaten over the head with apologetics, but rather I prefer to encounter the Bible in its beauty.  I feel that I have more free will in the latter case, for I am given the latitude to respond to the Bible in light of the beauty of its message, rather than being forced to accept the Bible because someone presented an argument that I can't refute at the moment.  When I encounter apologetics, my mind races to find ways to refute the argument in an attempt to preserve my freedom, or I can find myself sighing Al Gore-like or rolling my eyes.  I don't want to be like that in my Bible study group, and so I'd prefer to tackle apologetics in my own personal reading----where I have the latitude to learn and grow as I wish, and to accept or reject what I want without group pressure. (That's not to say that the group pressures me or anyone else, but I'm the sort of person who likes to fit in and so I nod my head and agree in Bible study groups.  I'm not sure what I'd do if I encountered in a group something with which I fundamentally disagree, especially since I'm hesitant for other Christians to see my skeptic-side.)

Someone else in the group didn't want to do this particular study.  It's not so much because she's a skeptic like me----though she does ask plenty of excellent questions.  Rather, it's because she already accepts the Bible, and she's more interested in learning about what the Bible says and how it can help her to live a good life than she is in hearing defenses for the Bible's authority.  Even if she and I differ in our worldview, we find common ground on what we're looking for in Bible study curricula.

Another curriculum we were looking at concerned Jesus.  The description asked if Jesus was merely a man, or was more than that.  I feared that this, too, would put me into a situation in which I'd find myself sighing and rolling my eyes.  I appreciate that the documentaries interview biblical scholars and refer to primary sources from the New Testament period, but I feared that this particular curriculum would uncritically assume that Jesus is God and would not be sensitive to the complexity of Christology in the New Testament.  I was one time in a group in which we were reading the Gospel of Luke, and many of us simply assumed that Jesus went around proclaiming himself to be God.  Well, maybe there were times when he arguably did so, but I don't think that this was always obvious or was a salient element of his message, or that all of the New Testament assumes the doctrines that were later enshrined as Nicene and Chalcedonian orthodoxy.  In my opinion, things were messier than that, and that's one reason that the New Testament is interesting to study.  We didn't discuss this curriculum much, but we decided to do something else.

We also considered a study on Isaiah 53.  The title assumed that Isaiah 53 was a prophecy about Jesus.  When I said that Jewish people have a different interpretation, my pastor said, to my surprise, that the study also looks at Jewish interpretations!  Perhaps this particular curriculum would be interesting, as long as it seeks to find something edifying in Jewish interpretations rather than arguing that they're wrong because they fail to see that Isaiah 53 is about Jesus.  Perhaps that's what the curriculum does.  Personally, though, I'm not comfortable with a study that focuses on how the Old Testament points to Christ, for I don't think it's obvious that it does.  We discussed this study a little, but we decided on something else.

We're going to study Romans.  I was afraid that the study on Romans 1 would really harp on homosexuality, but I watched the first episode of the documentary online and I saw that it didn't even mention that particular issue, focusing instead on idolatry.  Well, that offends my pluralistic sensibilities, but I can at least deal with that.  On homosexuality, it's not that I have problems hearing people express a belief that homosexuality is wrong.  I'm just uncomfortable when the issue is run into the ground----when there is no attempt to understand the perspective of homosexuals, when a political agenda is promoted, when homosexuals are demonized, etc.  But, even if the topic were to come up in the group, it would only be one session, then we'd move on to the rest of Romans, which has a lot of edifying teachings. 

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