J. Gordon Duncan

Culture, Business, Fitness, Etc.

What the Bible is Not – Crosstalk by Michael Emlet

I recently began reading “Crosstalk” by Michael Emlet, and I highly recommend it for anyone who wants to make their reading of the Bible more practical in both personal and professional application.

One small section of the book speaks of the false assumptions that folks bring to their reading of the Bible.  I’ve included a summary of one chapter below and would love to hear from anyone else who has interacted with the book.

The Bible is not primarily a book of do’s and don’ts.  Though there are do’s and don’ts in the bible, if it is reduced to that, then large sections of the bible become utterly useless.  A lot of the Bible is more descriptive of the Christian life than it is prescriptive.  Treating the Bible like a list of do’s and don’ts completely misses out on the process of testing that God intends to use for increasing your faith.

The Bible is not primarily a book of principles for the problems of life.  Though the Bible does of course contain principles for the problems of life, but if that is all it is to you then you will have a tendency to overlook the history and culture of the Bible which are intended to help you learn how to apply God’s word.  When we approach the scriptures like this, we reduce life to a phrase or a commandment and miss out the interaction that God intends with His believers and other people.  Parents can do this so often when they refuse to interact with the children because their children have disobeyed a 4 word phrase of the Bible.  If God did that, the world would have ended with “Do not eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”

The Bible is not primarily a casebook of characters for you to imitate and avoid.  We treat the Bible like this when we think, “What should I do?” and then you find a Bible character to imitate.  For example, you wonder what how to act in a certain situation so you look at the King of a Jewish nation who was bound to laws of which you are not bound who is held accountable for things that you will never be held accountable who also had 100’s of wives and concubines and we say, “Well Solomon did such and such so I will too.”  Really?   Now Biblical character application can be helpful but you cannot reduce the Bible to just that.  Why?  Merely imitating people in the Bible doesn’t highlight the character of God, it highlights the character and walk of people which always falls short.

Finally the Bible is not primarily a system of doctrine.  Though the Bible of course contains doctrine and we value doctrine, treating the Bible like a systematic theology text book minimizes the wisdom of the Bible and makes the Bible a proof text for things you already believe.

Emlet’s next chapter is on what the Bible is and the simple is, “The Bible is God’s story” which requires much more depth and detail than this space allots.  Happy Reading.

This article also appears at the Raleigh Examiner. Read it there and help me earn a penny.

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January 7, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , ,

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