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06 November 2007

Salty Speech, Part III

Interesting Scripture reading I had this morning -- Luke 5:33-39.

Jesus was talking to the Pharisees about some things that in the past had been a little puzzling to me. In addressing why Jesus and His disciples didn't fast and pray as often as John the Baptist and his disciples, Jesus said that people don't put a new patch on an old piece of clothing, and they don't put new wine into old wineskins. Matthew Henry's commentary on this Scripture makes sense. At the essence of his commentary, he notes that Jesus is saying that you can't expect people who are new to the faith to immediately begin walking as though they've been doing it all their lives. Jesus was meeting the disciples where they were, and going with them through their growth process.

Jesus was not suggesting that a watered-down walk with God was good, but that baby steps were necessary first. Most of the people who read this blog are church "insiders" (as is my intention). One indicator of this is that my readership drops off by about 75% on Sundays. Statistically, most churchgoers have grown up in a church-based environment. Therefore it's likely that you're like me -- you've just grown up understanding the associated lingo.

In our presentations of our good news, do we meet people where they are? Cecily commented in a post a few weeks ago that the phrase, "Washed in the blood of the Lamb that was slain," is probably not a really good phrase for a first-time gospel-hearer to be presented with. Of course, that is an extreme example. Frankly, Scriptures don't get much stranger-sounding and potentially morbid than that, I'd imagine, for someone outside the church.

But what about the ones that are "simple" already? Are they simple?

"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." (John 3:16) Is that sentence familiar? What does "begotten" mean?

"If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9) He is "faithful and just?" What's "unrighteousness?"

"Without the shedding of blood, there is no remission [of sins]." (Hebrews 9:22) Whoa! That contains a couple of tough ones, and we often add "of sins" in hopes of clarifying the rest of the verse. I suggest that while that does, indeed, offer clarity (and is what the Scripture is saying), it doesn't do much to settle the eyebrow-raising shock of the first part of the verse. (Yes, I do understand that Christ's death for us is not to be taken lightly, and it was cruel and violent -- I don't advocate toning this message down. I do state that it may or may not be appropriate at all times, depending upon where you are in conversation.)

"For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast." (Ephesians 2:8-9) What?

It's not just a neat exercise to try to view these Scriptures and others from a ground-floor, "outsider" point of view. I believe it is fully necessary for us to do so in order to be able to relate our message to others, and I use the above Scriptures intentionally, because they are the ones that we in the church are probably most familiar with, and probably best at, restating in everyday terms.

However, these are also the Scriptures to which we typically refer once someone is ready to begin a relationship with Christ. What do we do about communicating our message to people and groups that aren't in that category? Is it "dumbing down" the message to put it all in simpler terms? I suggest something more along the lines of Radio Shack's old slogan: "You've got questions, we've got answers."

Or at an even more basic level: simply living our lives so that those around may actually have questions we can answer in the first place (and this all gets back to living the Gospel before we speak it).


Lori said...

I don't think that we are "dumbing down" the scriptures because unless one is changing the words and facts and making them their own, God's word will never come back void! In the case of childrens churches across the world they are teaching scripture on the kids levels....ALL SCRIPTURES. If that means that you stop and explain every word to them, fine. The main goal is that they comprehend what they have heard so that they know who the "Lamb" was and why his blood was shed for our sins. Then we have to go into why it is so important to be "washed" in the precious blood. At least I know that is how KJ works.
If there is some one that has not been raised in church and then gets saved, I believe they will begin to crave this info with the same child-like eagerness that the kids have is most cases.

Bill Fowler said...

I had a similar conversation today with my brother (we attend the same chuch) about our worship service and it's presentation. I'm a Presbyterian in a church known for traditional, strictly liturgical services. We've been doing that really well for 130+ years, why stop now?

The point is that our service isn't for everyone, or as I put it, "We are not on the front lines of Christianity". People aren't saved or healed in my church. People are "absorbing" scripture there. We contemplate, digest and ponder. We aren't jumping with jubilation, much to the dismay of some of our younger members - me among them who are caught up in the spirit at times. But, we have a worn in feel and it's very comfortable to me 99% of the time.

I feel the same way about scripture as I do about the Church. As a mere human, I'm not going to recommend Revelation to any middle schooler, but if they read it anyway, I believe God will speak to them in a way that is relevant. Meaning, scripture should have no walls, just as the Church has no walls. You go where you're comfortable. The Holy Spirit is our best and most effective guide and editor.

Anonymous said...

I like the way Christ taught - through the use of parables. Why did Christ teach using parables??Because it appeals to the one common thing we as humans beings all have - logic and reason. This speaks to everyone from the highly intellectual to the common man on the street. The only issue that may arise is if someone does not want to accept the logical conclusion the teaching leads too -thus this is the problems with the Pharisees.

The other issue I see here is the church has failed miserably to teach newcomers biblical hermenuetics. What is sad is every pastor is taught this in seminary, but yet why is it not taught to its members??? What's good for the goose, not good for the gander?? This would eliminate so many misunderstandings and lay a wonderful foundation for solid learning and understanding.

Anonymous said...


Dean Lusk said...

Would I get in trouble if I laugh? :)

That's a puzzler, Anonymous (the first one). And at an even more basic level, we need to be more responsible to teach the Church the origins of the Bible and what makes us understand that it is, indeed, the actual Word of God.

When all we have are little bits of information that we've picked up off the Discovery Channel or have found leafing through the back pages of our Bible ("How We Got the KJV" and the like) during what we find to be a boring sermon, all we're doing is equipping ourselves to shoot ourselves to shoot our own foot.

Not only is a deeper understanding of the Scriptures (the culture in which the writers lived, interpretations, etc.) needed, but hey, even a basic foundation is imperative for starters.

I wandered from the point, but hopefully not too far.

Anonymous said...


Websters defines hermeneutics as
the - 1: the study of the methodological principles of interpretation (as of the Bible)
2: a method or principle of interpretation.

In a nut shell it teaches people how to properly interpret scripture without using presuppositions. BTW - Everyone comes to the Bible with some form of predetermined ideas about God, scripture, salvation, sin etc...either from their parents, preacher, Sunday School Teachers, etc. But how does one really know if they have the right or correct interpretation. Hermeneutics basically helps someone eliminate "bad" or improper theology, by using the one thing God gave us - our brains.

If you have never taken a study course, then I would highly recommend it. It basically teaches people how to read scripture using a set of tools that will help them come to a right and proper conclusion. If used properly it will often eliminate debate and confusion within the church, sadly this is why I think we see churches in such a state of confusion and being easliy led astray.

Again this is not some hocus pocus stuff - as all seminary students take this in their first year of study (just ask your pastor). So again if its good enough and mandatory for them then why not for the rest of us. Hope this at least helped clarify my previous statements. :)

BTW - A really good primer on this subject is a book called "Common Sense" by David Bercot.

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