New to the Bible? Wandering around confused?

FI Unfamiliar Bible
9 min. to read.

One of the roadblocks that can get in our way with the Bible is familiarity. This comes in two flavors.

Some of us are so familiar with the Bible that we got jaded. We come to it with an “I’ve heard it all before” attitude. We talked about how to deal with that in the last post.

But there are folks on the other end of the spectrum, people who simply aren’t familiar enough with the Bible. These folks might now know their Old Testament from their New. They don’t know if Moses came before John or the other way around. The Bible is a big book and a complex one. You’re not crazy if you feel a little intimidated.

Is this your story? Maybe you became a Christian after hearing about Jesus and headed home with a shiny new Bible. You started reading Genesis, but after a few weeks just got bogged down. Or maybe you got excited to learn more about Jesus’ teaching and went online for Bible studies where you found yourself unexpectedly swamped in the theological debates you know nothing about. Maybe you keep hearing pastors or more experienced Christians talking about all this great stuff they find in the Bible, but when you read it, you just feel lost.

It’s hard to stay motivated to read it when the whole project feels so unclear and confusing.
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Has familiarity with the Bible left you bored and jaded?

FI Bible Bored
10 min. to read.

I don’t remember the first time I heard about Jesus’ crucifixion. I do, however, remember the first time I experienced the story as something more than just words.

It was at the University of Cincinnati in the fall of 1989. I was studying architecture, surrounded by art student with every kind belief and background. It was a wild change from my small home community and church. I only knew one other person in this massive university. He was also the only Christian I knew at school. We started a little Bible study just to keep connected.

Months in, one of the guys brought his girlfriend to the group. We were studying Jesus’ crucifixion. She had never heard this story before. She listened, intrigued. She asked questions. As we got to the end of the story, she started to weep. I was stunned. Everyone I grew up with knew this story by heart. I had never seen someone weep over the death of Jesus. Never. Her experience took me out of myself. It was like seeing Jesus and what He had done for me for the first time.

Looking back I realized that there are advantages to knowing the Bible well, but there are some significant disadvantages too. You can become so familiar with scripture that you’re numb to it.

Maybe you’re like I was. We’ve heard the stories, the sermons, and the arguments over and over. Feeling jaded, finding the text dry, we remain unmoved. The result? Little little motivation to read and reflect on Scripture, which leads to stagnation in our spiritual growth.

Is there any way to get that intrigue and freshness back?
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2 Reasons using the Bible to prove your point is often wrong.

FI Bible Tangled
11 min. to read.

If you read comments online, you’ve undoubtedly seen this scenario: Someone is upset about some behavior or other. They hammer out their comment declaring that such-and-such is PROHIBITED BY THE BIBLE!!! Almost immediately someone else retorts so is wearing polyester and eating shell fish.

You’ll hear some people claim that it was Biblical Christians who invented hospitals, championed abolition, elevated women’s position in society. Others will argue that it was so-called Biblical Christians who used the Bible to uphold slavery in America, or to keep women from getting the right to vote.

I still feel that anxious cringe whenever some crazy on TV starts quoting scripture to justify his teenage wives, or his white supremacy, or war in the middle east. It’s not just the crazies. People on both sides of every cultural debate in our country all use the Bible to bolster their arguments, and hopefully draw Christians into their support.

There comes a point when a reasonable person would not be blamed for throwing their hands up in the air and dismissing the whole thing. I mean, if anyone can make the Bible mean anything they want, then what possible good could it do as a source of guidance? Fair question.

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Is the Bible human or divine? The problem is in your either/or question.

FI Bible Divine Human
12 min. to read.

Christians go around saying things like this:

  • The Bible is God’s word.
  •  The Bible gives us God’s guidance.
  •  The Bible tells us how we ought to live.

Make those sorts of claims, and someone is going start asking how you know. How can trust the Bible?

A member of my church expressed this issue perfectly. She put it this way:

“Not having been raised as a Christian…I have difficulty…understanding how so many different stories, written by so many different people, were agreed upon and chosen by a select few people who lived almost 2,000 years ago and then suppressed, subverted, and translated in so many ways over the years can be considered 100% accurate, true, and contextually relevant.”

You may have the same concern. When someone voices this question, a lot of Christians, certainly pastors, start getting fidgety. Some seem to suspect that Christianity will start falling apart if the Bible is questioned too closely. Yet, if you’re committed to looking honestly at the Bible, this is the sort of question you have to face.

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Maybe you need to ignore the rules in the Bible.

FI Ancient Rules
11 min. to read.

From time to time you’ll hear some preacher hold forth on the state of our country. He’ll (It’s almost always a man) point out the terrible ills in society and the ever increasing immorality. With waving arms, he’ll decry Biblical illiteracy. He’ll say if only there was more Bible reading, more Bible believing, more following of rules in the Bible, the tide would be reversed.

His prescription, however, won’t make a difference.

I spent fifteen years working with high school students who had grown up in a particular conservative Christian denomination. Most had been in Bible classes since they could sit still. They had been memorizing scripture their whole lives. I have never met before or since a group of kids with so much exposure to the Bible.

Yet they were generally not any more spiritual than other kids I’ve met. Many of them didn’t have any sense of a relationship with God. As this cohort of students grew up and started their adult lives, I watched a large swath leave the church of their childhood. Quite a number left Christianity altogether. Even though they knew the Bible like the back of their hands!

Or maybe they left, exactly because they knew their Bible so well. They had been taught the Bible. They had memorized Bible verses. They sat through sermon after sermon. But what they heard, for many of them, made no difference. Why?

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