Wednesday, February 15, 2012
Making the Bible Convenient?
If you saw this advertisement on ChristianityToday.com, what would be your first impression?
- "Cool! Something to help me cram in a little Gospel while I'm busy with real life."
- "'Friendly?' Yes, I've always found the Bible too intimidating."
- "Here we go again - yet another book that trivializes the importance of God's holy Word."
You can probably imagine what my first reaction was when I saw this ad today. Instantly, I reacted with indignation. Even our evangelical society refuses to acknowledge the fallacy in the notion that God's Word should "fit" into life. Shouldn't it saturate life instead? The Bible isn't a how-to guide for making life tick as much as it is a source of life from the Creator of it.
Yes, that's probably too severe a knee-jerk reaction to a book that, upon review on its publisher's website, seems geared more to the unsaved than the saved anyway. People who likely have yet to become convinced through the power of the Holy Spirit of the Bible's primacy and authority. Here is Bethany House's summary of this book by Dr. Daryl Aaron, entitled Understsanding Your Bible in 15 Minutes a Day:
The Bible can feel overwhelming at times. What parts should you read first? How can you understand it? What does it mean for your life? Meanwhile, most books about the Bible are time- consuming, leaving you without much time to read the Bible itself. In Understanding Your Bible in 15 Minutes a Day, Bible professor and former pastor Daryl Aaron answers your most important questions about the bestselling book in history. Broken into topical readings, you can read systematically from the beginning, or pick and choose topics of interest. Each reading is brief, engaging, and easy to understand.
So, OK: it's not heresy. In fact, it's not even a bad idea to provide people unfamiliar with the Bible a primer of sorts for how it was put together, why the prose can seem a bit stilted, how it's all inter-related, and other basics. After all, we're entering a new age in America where more people are unchurched than churched. The things that generations of kids learned in Sunday Schools across the country are now going unlearned by most kids, since they don't go to church. They're growing up and entering college without even a fundamental understanding of what the Bible truly is.
If this book can help counter that trend, then great!
However, although this book may serve a useful purpose, Bethany House's advertising for it betrays a marketing ploy that's all too often assumed with our faith walks: that a token amount of time a day is sufficient for life proficiency.
From pastors who plead with their congregations to spend just 10 to 15 minutes a day in personal devotions or quiet time, to churchgoers who fastidiously watch the clock during services to make sure they get out on time, the urge to compartmentalize and streamline the Gospel permeates modern evangelicalism.
Which can make for some jaded Christians when things don't seem to be going their way, even with their "God box" checked off every day. Perhaps taking 15-minute chunks for learning factoids about the Bible is a good thing, but who among us can really count on such budgeting to be sufficient? It's not even the question of 15 minutes, or five, or half an hour. It's the very idea that God's Gospel is packageable that bothers me. That it can be parsed out like, well, an instruction manual. Check off these lists as you complete your read-through.
Rare is the evangelical who will admit that this is how they view the Bible. But how many of us practice it all the same by the way we live our lives? Getting done what we want to get done, or what we think needs to get done, and checking in with God's Word every now and then for a shot of faith like we do power drinks.
If God's Word is the essence of life, then will five minutes a day be enough to absorb it for the benefit of our soul?
Hey - it's not like I'm any example of spending hours in the Word either. I'm preaching as much to myself as anybody here. Most weekdays, I probably spend ten to 15 minutes in my devotions, so I'm no saint when it comes to "living" in the scriptures. I'm doing better at reminding myself at different times during the day of Bible passages I've memorized over the years. But I'm purposefully trying to spend more time with God in His Word because, frankly, I'm realizing how much I need to. That's why, when I see advertisements like this one that suggest God wants to fit into our schedules, I blow a fuse.
God doesn't want to fit into our schedules. He wants us to fit into HIS schedule. In fact, He wants to BE our schedule.
I have a hard enough time applying this truth to my own life without being encouraged to slack up on it by a Christian publisher.
As long as the focus remains on us, genuinely understanding your Bible in 15 minutes a day will never happen.