Monday, May 24, 2021

Take Out Your Bibles

We visited a church while traveling, and as there was not one of our denomination with live worship we had to choose on the basis of websites.  We eventually chose one called Cornerstone, which to me is clear signalling for mid-range evangelical founded 20-40 years ago, with contemporary music, not too heavy.

It was that, and it was fine. It was an opportunity to worship, which was our main goal. I did think the sermon was mostly cliches, but I always think that, and I have heard worse.  My wife handles that particular problem better than I do, using the cliches as springboards rather than irritants. 

I do find that preachers telling the congregation to take out their Bibles is worrisome.  It has a feeling of sheep's clothing - that is, not something bad in itself but used so automatically that the unwary are in danger of becoming too easily reassured and too easily fooled. See, I'm not trying to put anything past you, here. You can see for yourself that everything I'm saying comes straight from the Bible. Except it isn't. It is nearly always a highly interpreted exposition of the text. It's usually benign, because it goes to the cliches.  The Bible-reading is not so much a teaching as a ceremony, a performance, where the few favored doctrines of the sect are re-performed every week.

It can be much worse, when wolves use such sheep's clothing to cover that they are teaching falsehood.  There are other types of sheep's clothing that are misused, certainly. This is just one that is not often noticed, that people who like that style of Bible use in their worship regard it as some guarantee they aren't being hornswoggled, when in fact it is just a cultural reassurance that this is a church that does things the right way.

Update: a regular here emailed me and pointed me to something similar Dallas Willard had written with regard to the swearing of oaths that Jesus cautioned us about. The type of oath was a manipulation, an attempt to be more convincing than your reputation might deserve. There are societies where one is not bound unless one has sworn an oath, but among the Jews, your utterance of your intent was supposed to be binding.  Adding to that - and as we see from the NT there could be considerable elaboration on exactly how one swore or what one swore by - was in itself suspect.  As I said above, sometimes it is merely custom or habit and mostly benign. It's just the way things are done around here, Jasper. Yet even at its mildest it betrays a weakening of the value of a simple statement.  You are puffing it up just a touch with the oath.

In both cases these are costumes, which is general innocent.  Yet costumes can easily turn into disguises.

Update Two: I think there may be a different dynamic between settled societies and more mobile ones WRT oaths.


Sam L. said...

And then there are so many other Bibles... which don't always agree, or say it their way...

Harold Boxty said...

Did you ever listen to a sermon by Pastor Mark Driscoll from Mars Hill in Seattle? He was popular about ten years ago until his Church imploded. He preached exegetically through each chapter and verse but then used that as a springboard for topical sermons a lot. I only ask because most of what I remember from the Old Testament comes from his sermons. I know he was controversial but I'm not sure if it was style vs substance like it is with the Never Trumpers.

james said...

"The Bible-reading is not so much a teaching as a ceremony,"

I think you have it. It is part of the liturgy. Evangelicals tend not to have as great a repertoire of corporate prayers to recite, so they have to rely more on corporate (albeit mostly silent) reading.

I suppose it also gives you something to do when the sermon gets boring.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Right. there's always the sexy part of Song of Solomon, or the footnotes for us OCD folks. And maps. Some Bibles have maps.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

@ Boxty - interesting. I have always thought the opposite, that the Trump supporters were supporting conservative style over actual conservative ideas. He was very good at saying "America First," because that was his instinct, and similarly "the way we used to do things in the good old days. Let's get some more flags in here." But he mostly didn't do those things, just talked about them - The Wall being the biggest example. Not much on family issues. Not much on taxes.

He was very reluctant to get us into wars, and I think that was a welcome change. He was a great cheerleader for the economy, though he spent as crazily as any Democrat. I liked that he listened to the Federalist society and kept focus with Mitch McConnell on judges. That will pay dividends for years. But mostly what people liked was that he punched back on progressives, which was certainly deserved, but I don't know how much it accomplished.

Harold Boxty said...

"But he mostly didn't do those things, just talked about them - The Wall being the biggest example."

That's just not true. Tucker Carlson mocks the Never Trumps over this. He rightly points out they ignore Trumps conservative accomplishments while focusing on his "mean tweets." He had to fight his own Congress and the courts to get at least a fence built. Immigration, economy, trade, education (he ended the fake college rape crisis), Israel.

I disagree about his court choices. Already Kavanaugh and Barrett have been a disaster. They failed to take up a single election case including the Texas suit. They approved the first amendment violations by the states over the lockdown. They have a chance to redeem themselves on abortion and guns this term but I'm not holding my breath.