Reading the Bible Without All Those Numbers 2

Let me offer a few examples of this disassociation of verses and chapters from the surrounding, relevant material, which is an unfortunate (but ever-present) byproduct of versification.

Example One: "Hebrews 11" is a famous passage of Scripture known for its clear and passionate explanation of faith. It is often known as "The Faith Chapter" of the New Testament, much like 1 Corinthians 13 is known as "The Love Chapter." However, Christians usually approach the section as a stand-alone discussion of faith—something like an individual article that contributes to the overall conception of the subject of faith in the larger volume of the New Testament. We start in chapter 11 verse 1 and read up to the last verse (don't hear what I'm not saying), but give little thought to the sentence right before verse 1 or the sentence right after verse 40. Let me ask you, answer for yourself: Do you know how this discussion of faith relates directly and logically to all of the rest of the book of Hebrews?

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Example Two: "1 Corinthians 13" provides a beautiful description of true love right from God's dictionary. Sure, it is a beneficial discussion in itself, but why did God inspire Paul to write this literary and spiritual treasure exactly where it is in the Bible? Do you just think of it as "The Love Chapter," or do you think of it as a convincing argument that love is the most desirable of all God's wonderful gifts—to be sought before all talents and virtues and means?

I say to you, we frequently have a tendency to see a passage in the context of the whole Bible and how it relates with ideas over in some other book or how it harmonizes with the overall Biblical narrative before we see a passage in the context most immediate to it.

A parable: A certain man began reading Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings" series of books. Each time he sat to read, he would choose a random page and read a selection. Sometimes he would read a sentence, sometimes a paragraph, and sometimes a whole chapter. However, after a time, the man found that no matter how frequently he read like this, he could scarcely find any enjoyment in the reading, and no matter how hard he tried to understand the story, he found that the process was so slow and confusing as to be an almost prohibitively monumental task.

The only sensible way to seek to understand the whole Volume of God's Word is to seek to understand the individual books that make it up. But how often we look over the grains of sand, expecting to see a beach! And that just makes no sense at all.

Posted on Wednesday, August 20, 2008 by David Gregg | 6 comments | Links to this post
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Reading the Bible Without All Those Numbers 1

I've been gorging myself on the books of Matthew and Isaiah lately. Both are absolutely phenomenal. One of the things I've been noticing in my studies is that, especially in the Gospels, there is, in our contemporary Christianity, a tremendous lack of contextualization when we go to understand the life and the words of Jesus. We think of the four Gospels as repositories of fragmentized selections of Jesus' ministry. Rather than approaching Matthew, for example, as a historical literary narrative on the teachings and life of Jesus with consistent flow, character, and internal harmony, we approach it almost as if it were a chronologically-arranged newspaper in which each event is not readily expected to correlate with the next. Regrettably, we have learned to comprehend the Bible as a compendium of individual verses or passages. With the exception of portions of Proverbs, none of the books of the Bible were written or intended to be understood this way.

So, in short, here is my suggestion for you: start reading whole books of the Bible, totally ignore chapter and verse divisions (which are not original to the Biblical writings and were added in the 1500s), read for natural literary divisions instead, and perhaps purchase a copy of The Books of the Bible edition to assist you in reading a book of the Bible more objectively.

Posted on Monday, August 18, 2008 by David Gregg | 5 comments | Links to this post
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What Makes a Church Organic?

Last week, I posted an article entitled "Organic Community in Hebrews 10:25," which was a continuation of a discussion I have been a part of that began on Maggie's blog, Alternative Church, and has centered around Jeff Rhodes blog, Chaordic Journey. (Maggie has since commented on the discussion via "Striking a Chord.")

My article last week was largely a direct quotation of my comments on Jeff's first post in the discussion, and what follows is a revised version of my comments from his second post.

Jeff said,

I feel that much of what is done in institutional churches is shrouded in so much tradition and formalism that Jesus can and has often been snuffed out. This may not be the case in all situations, but I feel that it IS so in MOST cases. Quite often, many of the activities, programs, systems, structures, etc. only serve as a distraction from intimacy in our "one another" relationships and our relationship with Jesus....

This does not mean the same thing can’t or doesn’t happen in "house" churches. In fact, it does. The location of the gathering is quite irrelevant to me. What defines an "organic" church is not the location or even the size of the gathering, but rather what happens in the gathering and in the lives of those who gather every other moment they live.

In other words, "organic" church is not so much about meetings as it is a way of living everyday as a part of a dynamic community of believers who seek to passionately follow the Way of Jesus in all that they do.... It is about the life and vitality of Jesus breaking into our reality everyday. It is about God’s will and activity in heaven coming into our world through us and in us by the power of the Holy Spirit. I think maybe the best place in Scripture which captivates the idea of "organic" church is Hebrews 10:23-25.

All of this gets us thinking about two questions: "What makes a particular community of believers organic?" and "How can an organization or group of people become an organic community?" I choose to answer those questions by reflecting on what I call "the Central Formative Principle1 of an organization."

Posted on Friday, August 01, 2008 by David Gregg | 1 comments | Links to this post
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