Voices
Illustration by Krieg Barrie

God out of the box

Be open and ready for the Lord to be marvelous

Issue: "Syria's pain," Sept. 8, 2012

In Annie Hall a Columbia University professor standing behind Woody Allen in a movie queue, pontificating to his date on the views of Marshall McLuhan, is brought up short when out of the shadows (and Allen's fantasy) steps the real McLuhan to pronounce the professor full of hogwash.

When I read my Bible in the morning I have a choice: I can come as an expert, or I can come as a child. If I come as an expert, I had better watch out that the Author doesn't step out of the shadows like McLuhan and put me to shame for thinking I had Him wrapped up and tied with a bow.

Some PowerPoint academics slice and dice, quantify, reduce, and put God in His box. But God's Presence is in His Word and He resists it. He reveals Himself not to the Box people but to children (Matthew 11:25) and to those who not only hear but keep what He says (Revelation 1:3).

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Many WORLD readers aren't familiar with "grammatical-historical" Bible interpretation, but I was weaned on it: It was new and scientific. We were proud to have found in our day the key to Scripture-objective, rule-based, heresy-resistant-that had eluded centuries of saints. We could stop asking of a passage, "What is God saying to me here?" and would ask instead the more empirical and controllable "What would the word or event in this passage have meant to Adam and Eve in their time?"

The verse "Fear not ... for your Maker is your husband" (Isaiah 54:4-5) elated an unmarried woman I know. In some circles she would be sat in a chair and made to watch a mind-numbing blackboard demonstration of hermeneutical hoops to jump through. She would finally come around to tepid permission for her joy-but what an ordeal to get there.

An inmate named Christopher Yuan read words written under the mattress of the top bunk above him: "If you're bored, read Jeremiah 29:11." He went and read it: "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans for wholeness and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.'" He believed the words-and they became his, by faith.

Yuan experienced a real encounter with the God who is present in His Word-that unbridled, brimming, breathing, uncontainable Presence that is ever waiting to be unleashed wherever hearing is mixed with faith (Hebrews 4:2). This is not to say we do not read the Word with common sense and listen to those who have done thorough exegesis-but it means we are open and ready for the Lord to be marvelous.

How should we read the Old Testament? God has not made any of us His Dean of Homiletics to tell others not to mine it for good examples. Hebrews 11 tells us to emulate the faith of Noah, Abraham, and others. Romans 15:4 tells us, "Whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction." First Corinthians 10:11 says the same. Does this undermine "preaching Christ from the Old Testament"? Nay, it enhances it.

As professor Vern Poythress of Westminster Theological Seminary writes, Christians before the rise of modern scientific skepticism "saw the Old Testament as a book in which God continues to speak today," and we should do the same. He goes on to say: "I wonder whether evangelical scholarship, for the sake of dialog with the mainstream of scholarship, has absorbed the influence of the Enlightenment. In practice do we have a model of objectivistic grammatical-historical interpretation of human meaning, a model that is at odds not only with the tradition of the church, not only with the fact of divine authorship, but at odds with God himself ...?"

Besides, we don't know for sure what Adam and Eve could have been thinking when God addressed the serpent. How do we know they were incapable, in their imaginations, of peering down the corridors of time to our redemption?

So take heart, Christian: "All things are yours" (1 Corinthians 3:21). Read the Word with confidence and expectation, for you have "been anointed by the Holy One" (1 John 2:20). Say to the Lord, "Speak, Lord, for your servant hears."

Email aseupeterson@worldmag.com

Andrée Seu Peterson
Andrée Seu Peterson

Andrée is the author of three books: Won't Let You Go Unless You Bless Me, Normal Kingdom Business, and We Shall Have Spring Again. Follow Andrée on Twitter @Andreespeterson.

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