Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Dangerous Devotions: Reflections on the Bifurcation of Faith and History - Part 2

First off, be reminded that blogs post in reverse order listing the most recent post first; in other words, do yourself a favor and scroll down and read Part 1 if you haven’t already. Now to the point: I ended the last post with the suggestion that fundamentalism and conservative evangelicalism (the parts of the Body I am most familiar with) have unwittingly been guilty of creating a bifurcation between faith and history not altogether unlike that of academic liberalism, albeit unwittingly and with no ill intent. This expression of this division in conservative circles that I have in mind is the division or distinction between the head and heart or theology and practice or however you may have heard it expressed on a popular level. Such division often comes to fruition in a desire for a devotional reading or approach to the Scriptures…hence the title of this miniseries.

Please don’t misunderstand me, the intentions are all benevolent; certainly we want to read the Scriptures with an eye to obedience and increasing our affections for the Sovereign Lord Whom they reveal. The problem is that at the “devotional” level, a righteous impatience to cut to the chase and find out what it is I am to do or be, often results in an end run around the often laborious exegetical process. Pastorally this may seem great because such believers are following the Lord with zeal, when in reality, this zeal may be no different from that of the Israelites described in Romans 9-11. The result is that the “Devotional Jesus” may bear just as much resemblance to the Jesus of Testimony (i.e. the Jesus of the Scriptures, a la Richard Bauckam) as does the Jesus of liberal protestant scholarship. Likewise, such readings of God may do more to shape Him in our image than to transform us into His. The bottom line is it takes time and effort to read the Scriptures aright and grasp them in their contextual (historical/linguistic/cultural/etc.) setting. If we spend 45 minutes in a given morning, it just might not be enough time to figure out what’s going on in our given text, especially if we’re outside the Psalter or the Pauline corpus. This observation is not intended to deter folks from reading their Bibles, but rather to portray the task as it really is. It will require some holy sweat.
Now, up to this point, I assume the majority of the people who read this blog would be more or less in general agreement with what I’ve said…even those of you who lurk in the shadows and never comment (remember there is a site meter on this blog and it does give a geographical breakdown; not to make you paranoid or anything J). However, in the next segment, I want to give a few specific examples to drive home my point that may be a bit less agreeable (I hope that doesn't sound theatric). Please give feedback if this happens; that’s the whole point of this blog. The areas I plan on sketching out (at this point, anyway) are: 1) the head/heart distinction in a little more detail 2) sermon structure and delivery and 3) popular level views of the apocrypha. Who knows, maybe more will come to mind and there will likely be some concluding thoughts, but that’s where I’m headed over the next few days.

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