18 June 2009

And God Breathed

I've had this idea for a while, and i've never had the chance, or the thought, to share it with other people. It very well might be heretical. Or it just might sound heretical. Or it might be entirely truth and give us greater insight into how God works in man.

It all stems from the passage in 2 Timothy: All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (NIV)

This passage is often used to explain how the Bible is a coherent whole, through sixty-six books and forty separate authors. I would agree with that. If the guiding force behind all of the writings are the same, then there would be a solid presence behind every book that gives the Bible a solidity it couldn't gain anywhere else.

There are two interesting things going on in this passage that i think are glossed over by just taking it for the above truth and leaving it at that.

The first is in the wording. The word in the Greek that is translated here 'God-breathed' is the word theopneustos. The webpage i got this from listed a literal translation as 'divinely breathed in; given by inspiration of God.' That's pretty much what the NIV and other versions translate it as, but i needed to make sure, since this next point depends so much upon the meaning of that word.

The first time in Scripture we read about God breathing, or God breathing into something, was in the Garden of Eden when God breathed life into Adam, making life out of dust. So let's read 2 Timothy again, thinking about God breathing life into something that was once lifeless.

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

What i see now is that without God breathing into the Scripture, it would be dead. I'm pretty sure this lines up with what the rest of the Bible says as well. So it's not simply that God inspired the Scripture, but God gives it life. Without God, they are just words on parchment strung together into coherent, but ultimately meaningless, sentences.

(Obviously, since they are different languages, there would be different words and phrases to talk about this, but i think even with the language gap, there is enough justification here.)

Now, my last thought is the most controversial. It has to do with God never resting on his laurels, if he had any.

If God never rests, if he's not the type of god to set things in motion and just watch them play out, if he's active and working in the world from its creation to its destruction, then i have a hard time saying Scripture, our Bible we have now, is the only literature that has been God-breathed. I would argue that there are other works that are God-breathed, given a sort of divine life that gives them power beyond their immediate words, power greater than any author can give a work on his own.

I think there are times, like the first century, when there are a greater concentration of works divinely inspired and given life. No other time in history has it been so critical to set down in writing what it means to follow God, to follow Jesus. The rule book was changing. They still followed the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, but it was now also the God of the Jews, the Greeks, the Romans.

I'm not up for debating which works are God-breathed, because i honestly don't know. And i don't think just because one work by an author is God-breathed, everything is, which is what makes Paul a such a heavyweight.

When i look at authors such as C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chestergon, Augustine, Mother Theresa, Oswald Chambers, D.L. Moody, A.W. Tozer, i see people who's writings have been used by God for amazing glory, writings that have taken on a life beyond that of the authors. I'm not just saying the writings outlived the author, but that the writings have grown bigger through time, not diminished or even stayed along the same plane of existence. I'm not saying all of their writings were God-breathed, or even that all of the authors wrote a single God-breathed work, but i find it hard to believe that not a single one of them wrote a work that was God-breathed.

What say you? Am i a heretic? Am i dead on target? If so, what authors or works would you say lean toward God-breathed, or are most definitely God-breathed?

04 June 2009

Nouns and Adjectives

I have a couple different issues with the word 'Christian,' but most of them are just aesthetic. I don't generally call myself a Christian because of all the baggage that goes along with that word. When i claim that title, sometimes people are more hung up on its association with the Crusades, anti-gay-marriage, anti-abortion, and religiosity than they are with knowing what it means to me. A title is there to describe a person, but when that title means something different to the one who bears it than those around him, it's a faulty title.

But i also take issue with the use of the word 'Christian' in the world around me. I know not everyone agrees with all of his teachings or his politics, but Rob Bell wrote something rather profound in his book Velvet Elvis. He said, 'Christian is a great noun and poor adjective.'

For those who fell asleep during English class and never knew, or cared to know, the different parts of speech and their use, here's a short primer. A noun is a person, a place, a thing, or an idea. If you can touch it or experience it, whatever *it* is, it's a noun. An adjective is any word used to describe that noun.

This is how it plays out. New York City is a noun, the name of a place. Yet, when it's taken word by word, not all three of them are nouns, even if collectively they are. 'New' is an adjective that modifies (describes) the noun 'York City.' Just as 'Blue Bonnet' brand spread is a noun, but 'blue' by itself is never a noun.

Some words cannot be made into nouns. Unless 'blue' is the name of a person or a place, it is not a noun. There is no object blue. You cannot experience blue or touch blue. You can touch blue paint or a blue wall, but you cannot touch blue itself. Same with 'new.' There is no 'new'.

Some words are amidexterious. Doctor, for instance. Acting on its own, the word 'doctor' is a noun; acting in conjunction with a name, or a place, it's an adjective.

And this is where Rob Bell's quote steps in. Like 'doctor,' 'Christian' is a label describing a group of people. Unlike 'doctor,' being a Christian is a way of life. It should impact every piece of your life, from sunrise to sunset, top to bottom, 360 degrees. It changes the way you view and interact with the world. It changes how you live your lives, even down to what you listen to, what you read, what you wear, and what you eat.

But to say that you listen to Christian music, read Christian novels, and wear Christian clothes should be as ridiculous as saying you eat Christian food.

For some unknown reason, we have made this word that describes us as people and our decision to follow in the footsteps of Christ and we use it to describe the things we fill our lives with. A Christian is one who follows God; a CD cannot follow God, so it cannot be Christian. Even a band cannot follow God. The individuals in the band can individually, and they can come together collectively, but to call them a Christian band should sound the same to our ears as saying a Christian church. There should be a small sense of redundancy there. Sure, there are churches that don't follow the teachings of Jesus, just as there are bands that don't, so we have felt the need to differentiate between the two.

But where does it stop? We describe them as Christian bands who make Christian music, so why do we not hear more about the Christian accountants who make Christian budgets? There must be something about the arts. Christian music, Christian movies, Christian novels, Christian paintings.

Hold on.

Christian paintings? Rembrandt isn't remembered as a Christian painter who painted Christian paintings, nor is Michelangelo a Christian sculptor. They are artists who created good art that we still admire today. Their faith informed their art, most certainly, but it did not define it.

We should not let our faith, our Christianity, define our art. It should no longer be Christian music/books/movies. Our faith should be an integral part of their formation, but placing a label on things when that label belongs on a person is only a way to convince yourself into thinking what you are creating is pleasing to God.