God’s Ways Are Higher Than We Understand

raul-petri-135002.jpg“I’m a Bible-believing Christian!” someone said to me. “Which part?” I asked. “All of it,” came the confident reply. This assertion wasn’t true – not remotely. And that’s a good thing, because parts of the Bible are confounding at best and criminal at worst.

Want to own a few slaves? Go for it. Feel like selling your children into servitude? Sure, if you can get a good price. Adulterers, Sabbath-breakers, newlywed brides found not to be virgins, gays, those who take God’s name in vain, sun-worshippers, anyone guilty of cursing or assaulting his or her parents, and those held in contempt of court: Kill them all. God will sort it out.

Let’s not ignore the joy of seeing one’s enemy suffer as they witness their children’s deaths (specifically, by means of bashing in their brains); the seemingly divine-orchestrated acts of genocide; and God ordering the sacrifice of children as a sign of faith.

This doesn’t even take into account that you can’t eat shrimp ya-ya, bacon cheeseburgers, hasenpfeffer, or wear clothes blended from two different fabrics (so much for my favorite pants) without falling under condemnation. So, no – thankfully – I’ve never met anyone who believes, much less practices, all of the Bible.

All these unscrupulous commands duly noted, what are people who love the Bible, and who find great comfort, direction, and inspiration from the Bible, to do with it? Should we abandon it all together? Should we construct a massive interpretive matrix to explain away all that we find offensive? Or should we editorialize as Thomas Jefferson did? A man of the Enlightenment, he simply removed what he found too extraordinary in the text to believe.

For my part, I love the Bible. I read it, study it, and teach it, as it has been a “lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” And yes, I believe the Bible, not wishing that any of it be redacted (see below). But I’m not a biblicist whose faith rests on the text being unimpeachable. I want to recognize this Book for what it is: A raw, soil-stained, dairy of the human struggle.

That is, the Bible is descriptive more than prescriptive; theological history more then constitutional law. It is a ragged, earthy, description of how human beings have perceived God. It is a “pointer,” looking back to these earliest understandings, as primitive, violent, and rudimentary as these may have been.

Simultaneously, it points forward and upward; to what can and should be, revealing a mature, compassionate, spirituality best captured by the words of Jesus: “Love God and love your neighbor. Everything hangs on these two pegs.”

No, the Bible should not be used to inflict suffering on others, nor should it be imitated and duplicated by people millennia removed from its original context. Rather, let it direct us to lift our heads and hearts, to point us toward “ways and thoughts higher than our own, higher than the heavens are above the earth.”

(Photo by Raul Petri )


4 thoughts on “God’s Ways Are Higher Than We Understand

  1. emspears says:

    Reblogged this on ericspearsblog and commented:
    Amen. So true. With all the confusion in theology and corollary secular misperception (understandably so) of the true Christian faith, this point is refreshing! This needs to be a regular reminder.

  2. Michael Wilson says:

    Pastor Moore sent me over here. It is the first time so I poked around a little today.

    Without writing a dissertation, this seems directed mainly at the old testament, without the benefit the changes brought by Jesus and the other authors of the new testament.

    This is very troubling to me. “That is, the Bible is descriptive more than prescriptive; theological history more then constitutional law. It is a ragged, earthy, description of how human beings have perceived God. It is a “pointer,” looking back to these earliest understandings, as primitive, violent, and rudimentary as these may have been.”

    Be blessed. God is with you.

  3. Thomas Fultz says:

    I find these items from the ECO Essential Tenets to enlighten me on the Bible and its application to life as a disciple of Jesus:

    The great purpose toward which each human life is
    drawn is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever. Each
    member of the church glorifies God by recognizing and
    naming His glory, which is the manifestation and revelation of
    His own nature. Each member of the church enjoys God by
    being so united with Christ through the power of the Holy
    Spirit as to become a participant in that divine nature,
    transformed from one degree of glory to another and escorted
    by Christ into the loving communion of the Trinity. So we
    confess our faith not as a matter of dispassionate intellectual
    assent, but rather as an act by which we give God glory and
    announce our membership in the body of Christ. We trust
    that when God’s glory is so lifted up and when His nature is
    thus made manifest in the life of the body, the church will be a
    light that draws people from every tribe and tongue and nation
    to be reconciled to God.

    I. God’s Word: The Authority for Our Confession

    The clearest declaration of God’s glory is found in His Word,
    both incarnate and written. The Son eternally proceeds from
    the Father as His Word, the full expression of the Father’s
    nature, and since in the incarnation the Word became flesh all
    the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are offered to His
    disciples. The written Word grants us those treasures,
    proclaims the saving gospel of Jesus Christ, and graciously
    teaches all that is necessary for faith and life. We glorify God
    by recognizing and receiving His authoritative self-revelation,
    both in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments and also
    in the incarnation of God the Son. We affirm that the same
    Holy Spirit who overshadowed the virgin Mary also inspired
    the writing and preservation of the Scriptures. The Holy Spirit
    testifies to the authority of God’s Word and illumines our
    hearts and minds so that we might receive both the Scriptures
    and Christ Himself aright.

    We confess that God alone is Lord of the conscience, but this
    freedom is for the purpose of allowing us to be subject always
    and primarily to God’s Word. The Spirit will never prompt
    our conscience to conclusions that are at odds with the
    Scriptures that He has inspired. The revelation of the
    incarnate Word does not minimize, qualify, or set aside the
    authority of the written Word. We are happy to confess
    ourselves captive to the Word of God, not just individually,
    but also as members of a community of faith, extending
    through time and around the globe.

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