Thursday, June 01, 2006

does the bible contain all that i need?

In Pyromaniacs, Dan Phillips (I love so much of his stuff) wrote an extremely thought provoking article, Unanswered Bible questions and the need to know. I wanted so much to agree with him but in the end I couldn't.

His propositions are:
  1. The Bible tells us everything we need to know, as Christians.
  2. The Bible does not tell us everything we want to know.
The focus of his post was on point 2 but I couldn't get past point 1 just as he predicted, "If you're Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Mormon, or some kinds of Charismatic, you won't agree...". Is Dan prophetic?

Perhaps my disagreement lies in the defining of "need" versus "want" but in the end, that statement of the Bible telling us everything we need to know just didn't seem right. A "fellow trekker", Jim Meredith, just wrote ...
... I am writing about discipline ... however, discipline is not so much something to mediate or write about, as it is something to put into practice, much like prayer! Discipline is a principle of life to be implemented. It is not a rule, it cannot be broken. It takes diligence, attention to detail, and accountability (another principle of note), if we are to experience its positive effects. The need for it does not disappear … ever.

Like any principle, the challenge is if and how we practice it. True practice stems from “where the heart is.” Let me explain. The word ‘discipline’ and 'disciple’ not only look and sound alike, they are brothers! A disciple is literally, in the Greek language, a learner. Discipline is learning through obedience. Jesus “learned obedience by the things he suffered.” Today’s disciple loves his subject (Jesus), listens, learns and puts into practice truth in order “to
please him who chose him to be a soldier” (a disciple), according to Paul’s encouragement to his young brother Timothy.

The purpose of discipline is not to become a fanatical keeper of the law, but rather to “exercise oneself to godliness” and then live out loving God fully, with heart, mind, soul, body and spirit. We please Jesus as He pleased His Father.

Discipline is not then, imposed by others. That only yields righteousness like that of the Pharisees, not a righteousness from the heart. And, unless we get beyond righteousness of the law, we don’t get it and Jesus says, “we won’t see the Kingdom”. No, all discipline at the core must be self-discipline, and self-discipline only takes root when we fall in love with Jesus and desire to bring every thought captive to Christ.

Strange how much our generation, which some say ‘has forgotten God’, devotes far more attention to the exercise (discipline) of the body, to the neglect of the soul. The apostle Paul sets before us right priorities in life and the need for personal discipline and self-control.

Over the years Paul’s words in his first letter to Timothy have been favorites of mine: “Do not waste time arguing over godless ideas and old wives’ tales. Spend your time and energy in training yourself for spiritual fitness. Physical exercise has some value, but spiritual exercise is much more important, for it promises a reward in both this life and the next.” (NLT)

Dallas Willard, a Christian professor of renown and proponent of spiritual formation, states the following: “…we become like Christ by doing one thing, by following him in the overall style of life he chose for himself. If we have faith in Christ we must believe he knew how to live. We can, through faith and race, become like Christ by practicing the types of activities he engaged in… such things as solitude and silence, prayer, simple and sacrificial living, intense study and mediation upon God’s word and God’s ways, and service to others.”
I learn to live Christ-like not only through studying the Word but by living it. The difference is approaching the Bible as a narrative versus as a textbook. I think Phillips leans toward the latter.

As I've noted many times, John Wimber rightly understood the Bible as the menu not the meal. The proposition by Phillips seems to be one coming from a worldview of the Bible as the meal. So it's not so much that I think the statement is wrong but rather that it is a wrong statement to make. I would rather say that the Bible tells us all that we need to know to live a life which in turn will teach us all we need to know.

For example, God will speak to me and tell me things I need to know. Suffering will speak to me and tell me things I need to know. The community of believers will speak to me and tell me things I need to know. Etc. If I do not root these "revelations" in the objective written Word of God, I am in danger. But these revelations often may not be explicit in the Bible and they are things I need to know to please my Saviour and to live the life He died for me to live.

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