I recently began re-reading Scot Mcknight's phenomenal little book, The Blue Parakeet: Rethinking How You Read the Bible. I young man in one of our small groups was asking about the bible - he wasn't sure he really believed it - so I bought a copy for him. He says he really likes it. I first read it in 2009, and I thought (and still think) it is necessary reading for anyone interested in the Christian bible. I think Scot's book is very easy to understand, but also takes you so deep that you come away wrestling with some interesting questions at any level of understanding.
As I read through chapter 2 it gave me pause to contemplate a situation we've been struggling with lately in our church group. The main Sunday speaker has been teaching through the book of Acts for awhile now. Naturally the way the Holy Spirit moves among us has become a hot topic. We've started to hear phrases like "full gospel," and "words of prophecy," and such. My ears tend to perk at these phrases and I've silently wondered just how far the leaders may be taking this more "charismatic" approach. It doesn't really matter to me, but... I'm not sure it's a discussion I want to get into with anyone. So, I was glad to walk into Scot's book and read what he has to say again.
On p. 27ff he begins by stating:
"We aren't called to live first-century lives in the twenty-first century, but twenty-first century lives as we walk in the light of the revelation God gave to us in the first century."
I believe that's a significant perspective to keep in mind. As he says (and one of the themes of the book)...
"God spoke in Moses' days in Moses' ways, and
God spoke in Job's days in Job's ways, and
God spoke in David's days in David's ways, and
God spoke in Solomon's days in Solomon's ways, and
God spoke in Jeremiah's days in Jeremiah's ways, and
God spoke in Jesus' days in Jesus' ways, and
God spoke in Paul's days in Paul's ways, and
God spoke in Peter's days in Peter's ways, and
God spoke in John's days in John's ways,
and we are called to carry on that pattern in our world today."
It's a delicate dance to profess faith in the Holy Spirit - and even more, the Spirit's ability to speak through and/or use ANYONE - and keeping oneself grounded in orthodoxy through the ages. As Scot says on p. 34:
"We dare not ignore what God has said to the church through the ages (as the return and retrieval folks often do), nor dare we fossilize past interpretations into traditionalism. Instead, we need to go back to the Bible so we can move forward through the church and speak God's Word in our days in our ways. We need to go back without getting stuck (the return problem), and we need to move forward without fossilizing our ideas (traditionalism). We want to walk between these two approaches."
The difficult thing is that we can't really just say, "this is how things are," because God is always on the move. The disciples tried this when Jesus was transfigured before them, and they were left wondering where God went. As people are often fond of saying on the college basketball forum I follow, "recruiting is fluid" (you can't really "take anything to the bank" so-to-speak). God is the same, in many respects. As is God's Word. Not that it changes, but how we are called to live - based on God's unchanging Word - may possibly be different through the years. At least that's what I think.
So I have very happily been pondering these thoughts lately.