An essay by theologian Miroslav Volf entitled, The Church’s Great Malfunctions. Read it!
“We should be our own fiercest critics, doing so out of the deep beauty and goodness of our faith.”
This morning, I read through Eugene Petersonâ€™s introduction to his rendering of the Bible in The Message, which has become very popular particularly among Evangelicals.
He studied and became a seminary professor of Greek and Hebrew and intended to remain a scholar. Something happened along the way and his vocation turned to the pastorate. He is a Presbyterian.
Upon taking his first church, he discovered that most people where not at all interested in Scripture, or if they once were they were bored by it. This seems odd to me, after all Presbyterians are perceived to be more “of the mind” and studious. He said that he found himself being a translator between two world languages – that of the Bible and that of the world. He was surprised be this realization, since he figured the worlds were the same.
This brought up thoughts in my mind about how so many Christians function in this world. Even among the Evangelicals and Fundamentalists, so few really have a strong grasp of Scripture. Most, frankly, either aren’t interested or will not take the time to read and study the Bible. This skews their perception and experience of the Christian life.
A strong statement: It is not possible to live within the Way of God without having an understanding of Scripture. It is through Scripture that we peer into God’s intent for the human life, a way of living that is best suited for us. It also has the power to transform our carnal minds into minds set on Christ and a way of life that is eternal. It forms us, changes us, and guides us. It is part of the equation that takes us and over time makes us into the image of Christ. As good Anglicans, Scripture is understood through Tradition and Reason. Just want to make that point!
Too many people, I think, perceive the Christian life as being issues of niceness and ethics. Yes, being nice and ethical are very good things, but anyone can be nice and have well formed ethical behavior. Being nice and ethical are good results of a Christian life, but they are not the definitions of what life in Christ is all about. Besides, most non-Christians or unchurched people have the perception that the Church and Christians are not frankly very nice or ethical! We focus too much on those things that may be expedient or comforting – self-justification and guilt soothing – but we do not allow for the transformed life.
We are famished as Christians if we attempt to live life in Christ unaware of Scripture, God’s Word to us. We are famished, even as we gorge on all manner of things: entertainment for distraction, self-actualization for “completeness,” identity-politics, ethnic diversity that confuses us into believing that we understand the Middle-East because we eat at Zaytoon’s, and so on.
The Sacraments are of primary importance, as is fellowship, but they alone do not complete the equation. We remove from the equation the very instrument God has supplied to us to reveal His will. We exclude the written source – our primary source document. We need to study the Word of God to understand what it means to be a Christian, to see the reality of the Kingdom of God, and to know how to move within that swirling milieu called the Way.
One of the big responsibilities of priests, pastors, and teachers is not just to be translators, but to teach the people in our charge how to translate for themselves to the point where translation is no longer necessary – they are fluent in the language of the Kingdom of God. Then, they are able to fulfill a primary role of the laity – to be translators to those living in this chaotic and messed up world.
Are we fluent, yet?
Miroslav Volf, theologian, said something along the lines that we need “to think of faith neither as simply a system of propositions to be believed, nor as merely a set of energizing and healing techniques to be practiced, but as an integral way of life.”