The Unstuck Bible: Recognizing the Movements of God in Scripture

Abstract view on elevated highway, movements concept.In the last post I observed that there are places in the Bible where God is capricious and volatile, acting in a way that is inconsistent with One who is described as “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.” Not that he merely appears to be these things, but that he is clearly acting in such a mercurial fashion.

This is how, in these places, the Bible is clearly presenting him, yet we try to reconcile and excuse his behavior, in the process not allowing these stories to say what they are clearly saying.

As I put it, in order to let God be God, we won’t let the Bible be the Bible.

And I think that’s wrong. Biblical fidelity demands that we let it say what it wants to say, not what we want it to say.

The problem is that we’ve taken an attribute of God—his unchanging nature—and imposed it on the Bible. That’s a natural thing to do if you take “inspired by God” as meaning “written by God.” Anything written by an unchanging God should reflect that quality.

There shouldn’t be any movement, any development in understanding, especially of the character of God himself. After all, if he’s writing it, he should know his own character.

Even if he only wants to reveal himself a little at a time because we can’t handle it in big chunks—what some call “progressive revelation”—you still wouldn’t expect him to portray himself so poorly in places.

This view of the Bible is called a static or flat view of the Bible. A person with such a view takes all of the verses and passages on a given topic and combines them together, much like ingredients in a recipe, mixing them and blending their differences into a homogenous whole to provide one answer or view on that topic.

It does not acknowledge that there can be movement, progress, or evolution within the Bible regarding a topic, such that the last answer is better than the first answer.

When I was young I was told by a Bible teacher that it was wrong for some editions of the Bible to put the words of Jesus in red, because that might lead some to think that the red letters were more inspired and thus more important than the rest of the Bible.

Because I was young I accepted what he said, but at some point I realized how flawed such a view was. Jesus is “the author and perfecter of our faith,” (Hebrews 12:2); his life and teachings are the supreme guide to the faith and practice of our living. If they are the supreme guide then there are lesser, if still helpful, guides.

And then there are some that are there to provide some stark contrasts.

The Bible clearly provides some stark contrasts as we move toward the fullness of God’s revelation in Jesus. I call these “movements,” in keeping with what I call a narrative interpretation of Scripture in which the message unfolds as in a story.

There are at least seven of these movements in Scripture. There may be more, but these seven are the major ones. They are:

· The movement from coercive power to persuasive love

· The movement from injustice to justice

· The movement from patriarchy to equality

· The movement from ethnicity to humanity

· The movement from exclusivity to inclusivity

· The movement from violent confrontation to non-violent confrontation

· The movement from self-preservation to self-sacrifice

I’m going to take a look at each of these in more detail in each of the next seven posts.

I have found that in understanding the Bible as dynamic rather than static, and then tracing these seven movements through the biblical narrative from Old Testament to New, almost all of the issues and inconsistencies that cause so many problems for so many people when reading the Bible simply fall into place. I don’t have to resort to strained explanations or ignore things that are clearly there.

I think you will see what I mean.

Photo by © Can Stock Photo Inc. / szefei

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