Sunday, November 22, 2015

Sunday Reading: The Big Picture: Building Blocks of a Christian World View #2

HarrisThis week I am reading reading through chapter two of The Big Picture: Building Blocks of a Christian World View, by Brian Harris. Chapter Two is entitled Beyond Proof Texts: Knowing and Living the Story. I will be posting some quotes on my Facebook page and you are welcome to discuss the posts there. (The numbers after the quotes are Kindle locations not page numbers).

Chapter 2 deals with how we understand the Bible and put it onto practice. How do we practice “all of the Bible,” including the difficult passages? First, and this is a given, we have to know the Bible well from “cover to cover.” I find this to be very rare, especially when we are not just talking about the ability to understand the different genres of the Bible and being able to put its stories together into a coherent whole.  This is critical because the Bible is “inspired” and “definitive” for understanding God, and our relationship with Him

One reason that the emperor appears naked is that many Christians profess a deep commitment to the Bible that is in no way matched by their knowledge of its content, meaning or relevance. 624-625

Harris suggests that we put the Bible together with 15 “orienting passages” by which we interpret the rest of the Bible. I think we all do this, maybe somewhat unconsciously, and it is a good idea to think through our reasoning behind this. I like his 15 and would suggest 3-4 more that are critical, especially Matthew 28.19-20 and maybe Proverbs 1.7 or similar. My other criticism (which I am guessing the author would agree with) would be that, rather than verses (I would get rid of verse and chapter numbers completely if I could) I would look for “idea trajectories” that run through scripture, that is running themes through scripture. I do think he has chosen passages that reflect these running themes.

What are orienting, or line in the sand passages? They are passages that give us a clear portrait of where the larger picture is heading … the vision that can sometimes be buried in the messiness of the unfolding story. 703-704

Briefly, here are his 15 orienting scriptures (well 16 since he sneaked John 3.16 into the introduction)…

  1. John 3.16: God is working towards a plan that has been shaped in love and is for the good of all who are willing to open their hearts to it. 712
  2. Genesis 1.1: God’s existence is the only reason for our own existence, and a failure to grasp this results in a radically different world view. 755
  3. Genesis 1.26-28: Not only does our imago Dei status force us to be a little tongue in cheek when we talk about gender differences, it also requires us to rethink all class and cultural distinctions, indeed, all distinctions made on the basis of education, wealth, intellect, physical stature … the list could go on and on.768-770
  4. Genesis 2.19-20: The fact that God is content to act as an onlooker whilst Adam performs this key task shows how seriously God views humanity’s role in world-shaping. 779-780
  5. Genesis 12.3: Election is not about privilege but responsibility. We are blessed to bless. 787-788
  6. Genesis 50.20: richly suggests the redemptive way God works in broken and fallen situations. This is seen with even greater clarity at the cross of Christ…Again we see the principle – what humans intend for evil, God is able to work for good. This underlying hopefulness at the heart of the Christian faith is liberating. 805-808
  7. Exodus 1: (This was the one most surprising to me but I do see the concept all through scripture) It shows that the Bible recognizes that we live in a world where we sometimes have to choose between bad and worse – put differently, a world where we sometimes face conflicting moral obligations. 829-831
  8. 1 Chronicles 22:6– 10 and 28:1– 3: We must conclude that whilst God agreed that the brokenness of David’s time required tough military action, God was unwilling for warrior imagery to be associated with the temple. In short, God makes it clear that warfare is a tragic consequence of human evil, and that it will never have the last word. 846-848
  9. Matthew 5.21-48: Punishment was not the underlying vision behind the law. Creating circumstances in which people flourish in relationship with God, with others and with creation, was. 868-869
  10. Mark 12.28-33: Genuine love for God will always lead to and be linked to love for others. Rather than faith being an escapist journey of disengagement with the issues of this world, a robust and holistic love for God – a love which engages our heart, soul, mind and strength – brings us face to face with every other human, and requires us to explore and enact whatever genuine love for them will mean. 879-882
  11. Romans 3.23: Our failure to live up to our core identity is the essence of our sinfulness. Made for relationship with God and to reflect something of what God is like, we usually reflect something quite different. 892-893
  12. Romans 5.8: It speaks of a God of compassionate justice. The goal of this judgement is not their destruction, but a path that will ultimately lead to reconciliation. 920-921
  13. 1 Corinthians 13.13: When we use faith, hope and love as an orienting motif we remember to ask of each endeavour, ‘Does this flow from faith? Does this flow from hope? Does this flow from love?’ If we answer in the negative, we should remember that we are chasing after that which will not endure. 928-930
  14. Galatians 3.28: Those who are shaped by a Christian world view should refuse to think of people in narrow categories that inevitably divide. Being in Christ trumps all other realities.942-944
  15. Colossians 1.15-20: Ultimately Christ’s death will lead to the reconciliation of all things. We can hope for a universe that is fully in harmony. The scope of the reconciliation will even impact realities which are currently invisible to us. 956-958
  16. Revelation 21.1-4: God met regularly with Adam and Eve in the first garden. Their desire to stake their independence from God set in motion a cascading chain of brokenness. This is now reversed. Heaven and earth, two spheres which previously seemed irreconcilably separate, are now united, God’s presence no longer something we can only fleetingly be aware of, but now part of our settled, permanent reality.968-971

Do you agree with these 16? Which would you add, subtract? Do you think these cover all the major themes of scripture?

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