Hermeneutics: a big fancy schmancy word to say “how we interpret the Bible.”
You see my kids got this Lego Brick Bible for Christmas.
It’s actually kind of cool and designed for adults as a fresh perspective on scripture. Some of it’s good, some not as much, but I haven’t looked at it enough to have a strong opinion one way or the other.
But Rachel has been reading it to the kids some.
Kind of out of the blue, here is a rough idea of the conversation Micah and I had in the car on the way to pre-school this morning.
Micah: Why did the bat almost kill the guy in the Bible?
Micah: It says the guy is half dead or something?
Me: Oh, you mean the “Good Samaritan.”
[In a nutshell, this is a story from the book of Luke about a man who is beat up and mugged. The religious folk walk past and avoid him completely, and finally a guy from Samaria helps the guy, takes him to an Inn, and gets him cleaned up.]
Me: Oh, you don’t mean a winged creature, right? You mean like a baseball bat.
Micah: Uhhh…I don’t know.
Me: The guy gets beat up and then someone finally helps him. The picture in the Bible was probably with a bat, huh? That story tells us we should help all people, right?
Micah: Did he use a bat?
Me: Probably not in real life, but that’s how they showed it in the picture.
Micah: Why did they beat him up?
Me: well they were bad people who took his money and hurt him really bad. Which we shouldn’t do. Does that make sense?
Micah: Yeah. But why did they use a bat?
Me: They probably didn’t actually use a bat Micah. The point is they hurt him pretty bad.
Micah: Was it a baseball bat?
The fact that he could NOT get off the idea of the bat wa kinda humorous to me. I was really trying to move him on to the big picture of the story, but he was really stuck on what that bat was all about.
It got me thinking about how much we tend read scripture like Micah too, though.
How often do we get stuck on some stupid tree instead of seeing the whole forest?
What do I mean?
Let’s see. How about we all spend a bunch of time arguing about whether or not the creation account was literal 24 hour days or not. We can argue all about the Hebrew words and whether science is reliable or not. And in the process, let’s totally forget about the fact that however you look at it, the point of the whole text is to give us awareness of a God who is creative, beautiful, involved, and brought all things into being.
Or, on this Good Friday, dare I step on some toes and suggest that we tend to do this with the cross and the nature of the atonement.
Atonement – in terms of theology, the reconciliation of people and God. Repairing the relationship of us and the creator.
There are several theories of how Christ’s atoning work is accomplished. Penal substitution (he took our punishment from God cause we all suck), Christus Victor (he conquered death), ransom theory (he gave himself as a ransom and released us from the authority of evil), or moral influence (he models and fulfills the message of his life, self-giving love) among others.
I come from an evangelical tradition that leans heavy on substitutionary atonement to the degree that you might as well not be a Christian if you don’t buy in hook, line, and sinker.
C.S. Lewis is one of the more brilliant and respected Christian thinkers of the 20th century. By the way, he actually leaned more on what is called the “Perfect Penitent” theory, rather than substitution.
In Mere Christianity he writes this:
Now before I became a Christian I was under the impression that the first thing Christians had to believe was one particular theory as to what the point of this dying was. According to that theory God wanted to punish men for having deserted and joined the Great Rebel, but Christ volunteered to be punished instead, and so God let us off. Now I admit that even this theory does not seem to me quite so immoral and so silly as it used to; but that is not the point I want to make. What I came to see later on was that neither this theory nor any other is Christianity. The central Christian belief is that Christ’s death has somehow put us right with God and given us a fresh start. Theories as to how it did this are another matter. A good many different theories have been held as to how it works; what all Christians are agreed on is that it does work.
In other words, we all know food gives us nutrition. Sure it can be helpful to consider ways that this may happen, how the proteins are broken down, etc., but the more important part is it does. So keep eating.
I’m trying to learn to get a bit less caught up on the trees, and pay more attention to the big picture Jesus has for us as his followers.
For me as his kid.
For our faith community as a family.
What’s important today? Jesus died, I’ve been made new as a result, and he set me right with the creator of the universe. Now I get to experience his alternate reality on a daily basis.
Thankful for a reminder today from my 5 year old budding theologian.
Oh…by the way…wanna celebrate that with us this Easter Sunday?
Eggs. Plastic and edible. Not at the same time. Those are 2 different categories.
Join us for brunch.
Click here for more info.