These days I am trying to distinguish between theology and the Bible. This is nothing more than what the Bereans did, I hope. They heard teaching, and then they went home and checked it out. We are always to put the Word of God above the word of man. If anything is clear in the Bible, it is that.
We are to listen to the insights of others, too---hence the legitimacy of theology. But the greater danger does not lie in this neglect but in the first. Our minds are so constructed, evidently, that we will force into our mistaken theologies whatever the Bible data serves up. This is counterintuitive but reminds me of the fact that when the Israelites moved into Canaan, false worship tended to change true worship, rather than the other way around.
And so because it does not come naturally, I am struggling. But the struggle has become unavoidable because something's got to give. The gap between my reality and my theology has become untenable, as when your suspicion that the roof needs work is finally confirmed by leaks in the ceiling.
Reading the Old Testament or Acts has become an occasion producing melancholy. I see speech and reasoning from the mouths of those simple believers that is different from the speech and reasoning that I and my church mates are content with, and I have caught myself making uneasy peace with that gap by half-consciously ascribing these former saints' lifestyles to a different and bygone era in the history of redemption.
It is interesting for me to realize that all that talk about the history of redemption is human overlay. A lot of theology seems to have evolved in response to the misfit between our own lives and the lives narrated in the Bible. I'm not saying there's not a history of redemption (one has to be very careful); I'm just saying: Watch the self-serving importations. I need to know if the way the Shunammite reasoned (2 Kings 4), the way Naaman's servant girl reasoned (2 Kings 5), the way the woman with the bleeding reasoned (Mark 5) were supposed to be different from the way I reason.
Reading the Old Testament and Acts as the lives of extraordinary people in a dispensation remote from yours is the surest way to get nothing out of the Bible. Satan need not weary himself with disproving the facts of the recorded stories, if only he may keep as the flickering votive candle in your mind the notion that these people were "special cases." This is never done fully consciously, by the way.
And so I am waging a personal war in my bedroom morning devotions, to intentionally "be an imitator" (1 Corinthians 11:1, Hebrews 6:12) of the faith I read about. My reason is the one given in Hebrews 13:8---that Jesus is the same. And even if I am wrong on some points, I am quite sure of this: I will never rise higher in my faith than my view of who God is and what he is capable of and willing to do in my life. Let me have likeminded fanatics around me. They are safer for me than underestimators.
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