Posted by Cory Tucholski
So, once you’ve realized that your doubts are emotional, not intellectual, what do you do? You give your life to Christ. Then, you’re supposed to begin the lifelong process of discipleship, but many churches focus so hard on filling the pews that they leave folks to fend for themselves.
Enter Brownlow North, who has devised Six Short Rules for Young Christians. Yesterday, we covered a simple one: pray everyday. Today’s is equally simple, and profound as well!
Never neglect daily private Bible reading; and when you read remember that God is speaking to you, and that you are to believe and act upon what he says. I believe all backsliding begins with the neglect of these two rules (Jn 5:39).
I think that North is absolutely correct in his assessment. Daily prayer and daily Bible reading are the most important factors of becoming a Christian. The necessity of God for the universe is an awesome, if abstract, thing to think of and discuss. However, the necessity of God for one’s personal life is even more interesting. And personal.
So we’re called friends of God. A modern friend isn’t the model, however, but a client/patron. Still, that’s more personal than most people ever got with the king in a feudal society. Ancient serfs probably never saw the sovereign. But, through the power of prayer, we get to talk to the sovereign, and confess our deepest fears and desires.
What’s more, God takes them into consideration! Look at Genesis 18:22-33. Abraham is able to strike a conditional bargain with God–if 10 righteous people can be found in the city of Sodom, then God will spare it. God took into consideration what Abraham had said, and did as was befitting a truly righteous judge.
Other instances can be found. Jonah preached to Nineveh to repent or the judgement would come. The people repented, and God averted the judgment. The namesake of this blog, King Josiah, did the same when he heard the Law read aloud. God listens to us, and he responds to our actions.
How do we read Scripture, though? Some people have wildly different ideas of what the Bible means. Look at websites like EvilBible.com and compare it to the alternative interpretations offered by Mariano Grinbank in his study of the passages used on EB. Why is Mariano right, and EB wrong?
The answer: consistent hermeneutics. Mariano uses them, and EB uses whatever interpretive method supports their prior conclusion that the Bible is evil. How does one approach the Bible consistently? Some brief points:
- Interpret Scripture literally, but not hyper-literally.
- Read Scripture in context: documentary (the surrounding paragraphs), genre (the Bible contains numerous different genres; a proverb isn’t the same as a historical book), and cultural (this requires research, humility, and empathy).
- Interpret unclear passages of Scripture in light of clear passages.
- Newer portions of Scripture supplement, or in some cases overturn, previous portions. (This is why I confess to God and accountability partners my sins instead of slitting a bull’s throat and splattering its blood at the foot of an altar.)
- Do not push language meant to communicate complex, divine truths to its literal extreme (God isn’t a bricklayer per Job 38:4, nor does he have wings per Ps 17:8).
- Scripture is multifaceted in its application, but the truth communicated by a given passage should be understood as what the author intended to communicate to his desired audience.
For more information about prayer, check out the very thin book Sense and Nonsense About Prayer by Lehman Strauss. One of the best volumes on the topic, with high accessibility and readability.
Remember, neglecting these two rules will cause more backsliding in your life than anything else I will say in this series. So get to praying and reading that Bible!