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Friday, August 13, 2010

Billings: “The Word of God for the People of God” - Pt 2

One of the primary premises espoused in “The Word of God for the People of God,” is that there is a proper way to approach Holy Scripture. To begin with, the Bible reader needs to come with humility. She is not a technician who manufactures meanings out of Scripture, or manipulates and controls the outcome of this Word of God, but that through Scripture “God “reads” us, reshaping us into Christ’s image by the Spirit’s power” (80). Instead of Christians owning the truth, we are owned by the One who is the truth (82), which means that as the Word of God comes to inhabit us and our cultural context, it will often critique and challenge us and our cultural context (108). Therefore, coming to Scripture in this expectant humility, there is renunciation and transformation, for “reading Scripture is about being mastered by Jesus Christ through a biblical text that functionally stands over us as the word of God, not under us as a word we can control, rearrange, and use for our own purposes” (203).

I think that this point in Billings’ book is one that needs to be rehashed, repeated, and restated; especially for preachers and pastors, for two reasons. First, in the daily struggle to “produce” sermons, Bible studies, thoughts and devotions, there is a numbing effect that can slowly, subtly, and devilishly seize and freeze a ministers heart and mind. To have the minister resubmit to the Spirit-fueled transforming power of Scripture, would be revitalizing for the preacher, the congregation, and the larger Church.

Secondly, our ecclesial culture seems to be hogtied by the consumer trap. Billings rightly defines and describes this trap:

“In the face of so much nominal Christianity, American pastors, church leaders, and other religious professionals, can frequently become obsessed with framing the gospel in a way that reflects and confirms the experience of the hearers. Like advertisers, church and parachurch groups begin to “repackage” the gospel in a way that makes it attractive to potential consumers. In this context, the goal of Scripture interpretation is to make it “relevant”: that is, to take away the rough edges that may conflict with shared American experience and to make it appear useful for people who want a “value-added” life” (127).

Therefore, coming back to the Scripture, not as technicians and systems administrators, but as people needing God’s intrusive and transforming word, ministers are themselves changed, and then emboldened to help their congregations to “not allow experience to dictate how we receive Scripture so much as allow Scripture to reshape how we experience the world” (130).

More to come in the next post. But until then, if you haven’t yet, race right out and purchase the book.


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