A Pepper Grinder Post

My Starting Place

Everybody has assumptions.  Assumptions are starting points in thinking that cannot be proven, and that you build everything else on.  The scientist who scoffs at religion, or relegates it purely to the sphere of the personal and emotional, has assumptions.  He assumes that all that is real is what can be experienced with the 5 senses, and deduced from our minds.  The religion professor who explains all miraculous occurrences in the Bible away has assumptions.  She assumes that nothing ever happens that does not have a natural cause.  These assumptions are their starting point, and everything else that they think and believe, and how they interpret everything they experience, hang on these starting assumptions.  They cannot prove these assumptions.  To them they are obvious and logical.  If you believe that you have no unproven assumptions, that simply shows that you have never questioned them.

frozen sunriseMy assumptions are that God is real and that he has spoken to us, without error, through the Bible.  Can I prove this?  No way.  I have had experiences that I can only explain through the existence of a God who is all-knowing and all-powerful and who loves me, but I have no doubt that someone with naturalistic assumptions could dream up other explanations for what I experienced.  I have seen pieces written by Christians that purport to PROVE that the Bible is true.  They seem like smoke and mirrors to me, that would only convince someone who already believed.  I am starting from my unproven assumptions, and if you aren’t starting with the same assumptions, we will never agree.  My purpose is not to try to change your starting assumptions, but to help people who have my assumptions see truths that are clearly taught in the Bible, but that our culture and experiences have blinded us to.

Have you ever heard the term exegesis?  It is a fancy word for drawing out the true and original meaning of a text.  Another term that I have heard used is eisegesis.  This refers to reading our meaning into a text.  All too often, in my experience, the Bible is approached like a book of quotations.  We decide what we want to say and then find a Bible verse that seems to say that.  Then, by a careful combination of a little exegesis and lots of eisegesis, we craft a sermon or article that says the thing that we wanted to say from the start.

I am as prone to this approach as the next person but this is NOT what I’m trying to do on this blog.  Here is what Hebrews 4:12 has to say about the word of God (which I take to mean the Bible in this instance):

For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

The way I have felt in my dealings with the Bible is that it is like a sharp sword that has no hilt—it is all blade.  The point of the hilt of a sword is to allow the user to inflict damage on others, without being cut himself.  In my experience, this isn’t the right way to use the Bible.  We have to pick it up and grasp it firmly and allow it to cut US rather than trying to use it to our ends.  It is not an inanimate object; it is a live thing.  When we approach a passage, we need to use all the tools at hand to understand it, but we must let it take us where it wants to take us, and do what it wants to do in us.

I have had the experience of studying a passage because I thought it taught a certain thing that I wanted to present in a message, only to find that its message was not what I had thought it to be.  My goal on this site is never to man-handle a passage to my ends.  I want to let God be God, and his word be his word.  I am sure I won’t do this perfectly, but I will try, and I ask anyone who reads this site, to let me know when I fail.

Along the same lines, I ask you to be a Berean.  The following passage (Acts 17:11) explains what I mean:

Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.

I hope I never get an email saying something like, “Awesome post, dude!  I’d never heard that before but since you say it, I know it must be true.”  I would much more hope to hear that reading a post had spurred someone to study that passage (and others) for himself—whether he ended up agreeing with me or not.

I ask you to let God’s word work in all your soul.  Some of the Bible is challenging and some is comforting, but it is all from God.  I will probably focus more on the challenging, because I feel called to bring out things that are often left out of modern, western Christianity, and the challenging parts have often been given short shrift.  If you read the posts on this site as interesting intellectual treatises, you will have missed the point.  Many of these passages are ones that I have had to wrestle with myself and have struggled to put into practice in my own life.  Fight against the urge to relegate the word of God to some single compartment in your life.  God wants to change every aspect of your life radically.  Let him do it.

I want to say one final thing.  I am not inspired by the Holy Spirit in the way the writers of the Bible were.  I will get it wrong sometimes.  However, the centerpiece of my posts will be the Bible, which is never wrong.  Try to distinguish between what I say and what God says.  If you disagree with me, that is fine, but don’t ignore the words of the Bible because they make you uncomfortable.  Don’t focus on passages you like and blow off others.  That is a perilous path.

My desire is that, as you read and understand the Bible, it will work in you and transform you into the unique person you were created to be.  My hope is that this website will be an aid in that process.