Archives For The Bible

Christians sometimes aren’t the best at handling disagreement. Conservative Christians are often the worst. Have you ever been in a situation where two people disagree over some (non-essential) theological issue, and very quickly the blood starts to boil, faces turn red, and it’s not long beforeangry one’s character is slandered all because he or she held to a different view?

Or worse, have you ever been in a setting where the tension is thick and no one knows what to say? One person has said something that everyone else disagrees with. And since no one knows how to have a healthy discussion in the context of unity, everyone maintains an awkward silence with a matching posture.

Even worse, have you ever been in a classroom or living room where everyone is on the same page on some issue—you’re all Calvinists, or Charismatic, or Premillenial, or whatever. And rather than trying to understand the view you all disagree with, you sit around and caricature the other side, demonize those who hold it, and pat each other on the back for getting it right while all those other poor, less intelligent, and less biblical fellows “out there” have it all wrong?

Me too. That’s why I love teaching at Eternity Bible College. We don’t do that here. We don’t train our students to slam on other views, nor do we teach them to memorize the right answers. We’re here to educate, not indoctrinate. Rather than telling them what to think, we saturate our students in God’s word and lead them discover the truth for themselves in the context of community, discussion, and yes—disagreement.

Because in disagreement, we are forced to reconsider our views. We are pushed to think a bit deeper, more critically, about what we think we know. In disagreement, we are driven back to Scripture to make sure that what we think the Bible says is actually what the Bible says. Sometimes it’s not.

This is why we’ve decided to do a few more posts on the question about Ezekiel’s temple prophecy (Ezek. 40-48). Last week, I wrote a few blogs about what I think the Bible says about how Ezekiel’s temple prophecy will be fulfilled. However, in no way do I want to give the impression that this is the only view that has biblical merit. In fact, there are other views promoted here at Eternity and I love this diversity! This is why I’ve asked Josh Grauman (Associate Professor of Hebrew, Old Testament, New Testament, Greek, and angry 2everything else that has to do with God, Jesus, the Spirit, and the Bible) to write a couple of posts defending a different view than the one I promoted. Because here at Eternity, you’ll hear both perspectives and you’ll be forced to believe what the Bible says—not what Josh or Preston say—about this doctrinal issue and that theological debate.

By way of introduction, Josh Grauman is one of the smartest guys I know—and I’ve been around a lot of smart people. While most of us are out surfing, playing Xbox, or watching reruns of Lost, Josh is meticulously pouring over the original languages of the Bible. He has translated more than half of the Bible from the original languages and has taught classes on nearly every book of the Bible. He wrote his own Hebrew language textbook; he developed his own Bible software called Scroll Tag. And he’s thought deeply about how Ezekiel’s temple prophecy will be fulfilled.

So I encourage you to read the Josh’s posts carefully. Then go back and read my 3 posts carefully. Then go back and study Ezekiel 40-48 even more carefully. I love Josh like a brother and respect his views immensely. And even though he’s wrong about Ezekiel’s temple (gotta have some fun with it!), I hope that we all, including myself, will be driven back to God’s sacred word yet again, so that our views are grounding in the text and not in our tradition.

When Paul wrote to the church in Thessalonica, he had these words of praise for them:

“And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.” (1 Thessalonians 2:13)

Bible 2Paul was thanking God that these believers heard the word of God and recognized it for what it truly was. This was something more than the words of a man. It wasn’t Paul’s clever preaching or a good motivational speech.

What they heard was the word of God. When Paul opened his mouth to proclaim the gospel, they heard the voice of God. And they responded accordingly.

But we also need to see that this wasn’t a one-time action. Paul is praising them for something more than their initial response to the word of God. He says that this word of God “is at work in you believers.”

The Bible is something more than a collection of beliefs to which we must give assent. It’s more than a group of compelling stories, more than a roadmap, more than a source of wisdom. It is all of these things, but it’s also much more.

Paul says that the word of God actually works within us. It’s more than something we read; it’s something that changes us. We have a responsibility to act according to what we read in the Bible, but the Bible also does work within us.

So here’s the question. Is the word of God at work in your church? What role does the Bible play in your setting? Is it merely a sourcebook for the sermons you hear on Sunday mornings, or does it actually shape the way you live together as a church? Is it at work in you believers?

If it’s not, then the word of God is not taking its proper place in your lives:

“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)

History Channel The Bible 2Yesterday, I talked about the History Channel’s new series on the Bible. As I said, many found the show compelling and faithful to the overall story, if not to every detail of the biblical story. My argument in yesterday’s post was that adapting a book for film is fraught with difficulties, so we should be cautious with our expectations. Today I want to continue exploring our response to this show by showing why the criticisms are valid, but why I tend to disagree.

The most important concern about the series is that it changes some of the events, dialogue, and chronology within the biblical storyline. This is serious. We’re talking about God’s divine revelation to us, after all. So even though it’s difficult to adapt a book to film, the issue is significant when we come to the Bible.

If presenting the Bible on film is so difficult, we might argue that it shouldn’t be done at all. God wrote the Bible, so let’s stick to that. That’s a legitimate position to hold. This would allow us to stick with the inerrant version of the story and keep us from needing to interpret the events for visual depiction.

But that does seem a bit simplistic. For example, can we paint pictures about biblical events? Christians have been doing this throughout the history of Christianity. What about stained glass windows? At one point in church history, these windows were designed to tell the biblical stories so that illiterate peasants would have access to these inspiring and important accounts.

So we probably shouldn’t rule out visual depictions of biblical stories outright. Instead, we’ll need to focus the discussion on what types of presentations are permissible.

History Channel Abraham IsaacAnd that’s where we’ll disagree. As an example, I was okay with the History Channel’s decision to put the words of Genesis 1 –3 into Noah’s mouth (when in fact it was Moses who wrote them). It served as a cool introduction to these chapters, it put the flood in its theological context, and it allowed them to cover a lot of ground in a few minutes. Was this presentation inaccurate? Yes. We have no record of Noah saying this. Is it bad? I don’t think so, personally. Moses would not have been the first one to be aware of the creation story, though he was the one chosen to record it in Scripture. Noah would have known these things. So I liked it as a storytelling device that stayed accurate to the overall story, if not to the details. Others will disagree, and that’s okay. It’s a tough issue.

I also saw in a preview that when Jesus is asked by his disciples what he will do, he replies, “Change the world.” The gospels don’t record these words, so again, we have an inaccuracy. But would any of us deny that this is what Jesus was doing? It’s a storytelling device that shows the significance of what Jesus was up to. Again, I’m okay with it. And again, others won’t be.

So here’s my point in writing these two posts. If you find yourself disgusted by The Bible on TV, then don’t watch it. It won’t be helpful for you to smolder on your couch. But be okay with other people being encouraged by it. Be sure that they’re committed to the reliability of Scripture and the primacy of the biblical telling of these stories, but be okay with them finding value in something you don’t like.

And if you find yourself upset at those who didn’t like the series, understand that the Bible is the most important book in the world. It’s understandable that some are disturbed at seeing the biblical events altered for film. We can all agree that something more significant is going on here than disliking the way the Hobbit was adapted for film.

For all of us, if we curb our expectations and evaluate the series based on its faithfulness to the overall message of the Bible, we might get more out of it. (But then again, we might not—it has yet to be seen if the show will faithfully present the overall story of the Bible.)

Here’s the position we should hold: The Bible is and always will be the only inerrant and definitive telling of God’s story. If we cling tightly to that, we will be equipped to critically assess and still benefit from a visual interpretation of that story.

History Chanell the BibleLast night, the History Channel aired the first episode of their series on the Bible. I watched the previews for this show with curiosity. For one thing, Hollywood isn’t known for its efforts to protect the accuracy or intent of Scripture. For another thing, if the History Channel wrote a history textbook, it would contain at least a chapter on each of the following: World War II, antiques, aliens, truckers and loggers, and conspiracy theories; then there would be a concluding chapter entitled “Other Things that Happened.” So as I watched previews for a dramatized film version of biblical stories, I was skeptical.

If my Facebook feed is any indication, the show proved controversial. Some are arguing that it was very reverent and preserved the intended message of the Bible, even if some of the details were change for the new medium. Others are outraged, concerned that the Bible was changed to make a good show. Most people seem to be falling in between these two positions.

I was only able to watch the first 20 minutes (though I plan to keep watching), so what I will offer here are some thoughts on what we should expect from a film version of Bible stories, rather than what the History Channel did specifically. I feel that many of the negative reviews seem to be stemming from a misunderstanding of how the Bible might work as a movie.

So what should we expect when we go to see the Bible on the silver screen? Well, don’t expect too much. Haven’t we all watched a film version of a beloved book only to be disappointed that it wasn’t as good as the book? This is because books and film work in different ways. If a book could be easily and accurately adapted as a movie, then these movies wouldn’t need writers. The story is already written, why rewrite it! Right?

History Channel JesusMovie-adaptations need writers because we read books differently than we watch movies. A book can tell you Frodo threw the magical ring into the fires of Mount Doom. Your mind conjures up a wonderful image of what this “looks” like, based in part (though only in part) on descriptions the author provides. But the movie has to show you the details. They have to show you lava flowing, rocks shaking and falling, a convenient rock peninsula that seems to have been built for throwing magical rings into the lava below. Thousands of details that a writer can leave out have to be thrown into a movie.

So when the Bible says that Jesus fed five thousand and picked up basketfuls of leftovers, a film presentation would have to show you people’s faces. It would have to interpret their reaction to getting increasingly more bread and fish from a single man. The Bible doesn’t tell us if the people sat still for this, if they were dead silent or talkative, or if they fully realized what was going on. A film has to make a decision on each of these things in order to portray the event.

Similarly, a book can give you extended dialogue on what a character’s motivation is, or pause the action to describe the significance of what’s happening. A film has to keep moving. It can fill in some gaps with a narrator (which the History Channel chose to do), but much of the interpretation comes from the visual depiction and the action and interaction of the characters.

So back to the question. When the Bible hits the silver screen, we shouldn’t expect it to be a word for word retelling of biblical events. Aside from necessitating the longest film series the world would ever see (or wouldn’t see, because it would be immediately cancelled), this would make for a bad movie (can you imagine the many many episodes on Numbers, or the similarity between the Kings and Chronicles episodes?). Don’t get me wrong. The Bible is indeed the greatest story ever told. But God chose to record his story in a book. The doctrine of inerrancy says nothing about how that book should adapt to film.

Can some events be left out? Can some dialogue be extrapolated in order to present the significance of what was happening? We’re left to make those decisions on our own. Just keep in mind that it’s not an issue of Hollywood trying to change the Bible, these are decisions we’d all have to make in trying to present the Bible visually.

These are a few thoughts to help us consider how well the History Channel did. We have to keep in mind that they took on an audacious project, one that we would all find exceedingly difficult, and that we would all be criticized for undertaking.

But there is more to be said. Tomorrow I will give some concluding thoughts and show why many of the concerns presented are justified. Then I will explain why I tend to disagree with most of the concerns.

What’s on Your Mind?

Mark Beuving —  November 9, 2012 — Leave a comment

Thinking ManFacebook asks a great question every time we log in: What’s on your mind? It’s a question we should be asking ourselves, not necessarily as a conversation piece, but as a means of self-reflection. We can learn a lot about what we really value by examining what we’re constantly thinking about. It’s one thing to say we are devoted to this or that, but it’s quite another to learn what dominates our thinking.

The Psalmist describes the “blessed man” like this:

“His delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night.” (Psalm 1:2)

What is on his mind? The law of the LORD. Ask him in the morning. Ask him again at night. His mind is focused on God’s word and he delights in it.

Is that true of any of us? This past Sunday my pastor, Gordy Duncan, taught on this passage and used a great rhetorical device to help us think it through. I want to share it with you here.

Could it be said of you that your delight is in the law of the LORD, and on it you meditate day and night?

Or might it be more accurate to say that your delight is in ESPN, and on it you meditate day and night?

Or her delight is in Pinterest, and on it she meditates day and night.

Their delight is in their children, and on them they meditate day and night.

Be honest with yourself here. How would the Psalmist have written this sentence had he been writing about you? Or ask yourself this question. Do you fit the description of the man or woman who is blessed according to Psalm 1?

Your Bible is more than a religious object in your home. It’s more than an accessory to your churchwear. God gave us every word in Scripture, and it’s probably not a stretch to assume that he wants us to read it.

So is God’s word on your mind at all? How often do you meditate on it? Can you honestly say you delight in it?

Here is how the Psalmist describes the person who whose mind is focused on the Scriptures:

“He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.” (v. 3)