Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Why isn't the Bible a living document?

My sermon for this week was based on Matthew 25:14-30.

To download a podcast of my sermon, click here.

I have always thought it a little odd that the Bible, of all documents, is not considered to be a "living document".

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term (as it is buzzwordy), a living document is a document which is updated and edited on an ongoing basis to reflect changes in the organization/topic it addresses.  So for example, a mission statement, constitution, scientific or legal document may be considered "living" as it can be changed to reflect new findings or situations.

The Bible, on the other hand, is a "dead" document, like a novel.  No changes are needed, required or welcome.

But this is what Jesus indicts the Pharisees for in today's Gospel passage.  The slave who buries the money his master entrusted to him is supposed to be the Pharisees.  Rather than trade, invest and grow the money he was entrusted with like the other slaves did, he played it safe.  By burying the money, he protected it, but it did not grow to the benefit of others and of God (the erstwhile landowner).

The Pharisees wanted to freeze the law.  They wanted to conserve it, bury it, strangle it so that it never changed.  They could not accept new thoughts or directions.  And for this, they are rebuked by the landowner.

The proof that Scripture and faith must be allowed to move, grow and change, and indeed are supposed to, is contained in the Gospel for today.

No one could disagree that Martin Luther King Jr. was a man inspired by God.  No one could disagree that the Civil Rights movement was good and Godly.  No one could disagree that the abolition of slavery, and the elevation of all men and women to a state of equal rights is perfectly in line with Christian principles.

And yet Jesus mentions slaves very casually in today's parable.

He mentions them in other parables very casually,  They are messengers, couriers and stewards, which was perfectly in line with Jesus' culture, which is why he did not speak out against them.  That was the culture he was raised in.

Are we to reason that simply because Jesus did not thunder against slavery from the mountaintop that he A) endorsed slavery or that B) we should endorse slavery?

Surely not.

The abolition of slavery, the equality of women, the right to same-sex marriage are all products of our ever-increasing and expanding consciousness, of our growing ethics, faith and morality.

Our faith, like Scripture should be allowed to breathe.  That requires a little bit of risk on our part.  It is a risk to share, to give, to sacrifice.

Last week I recommended we all do something a little foolish.  This week, I recommend we all take a risk.  We might lose something in the gamble, but we have so much to gain, and so many ways to grow.  If we do not take that risk, we will always get what we have always gotten.


  1. Essentially, what yoy are saying is that Scripture is to be interpreted by man. Whatever MAN says supercedes what God inspired men such as Paul and Peter to write.

    You cite "same sex marriage," as an example of how Scripture should be allowed to breath. I would remind you, that in BOTH the Old and New Testaments, homsexuality was clearly labeled as something to avoid. Scripture is could not be more clear on this matter. Please consult the 1st Chapter of Romans.

    So, when societal norms change, such as how society has been perverted with immorality, it's okay to proclaim Scripture null and void, because of the whims of man. I don't buy it.

    God said that He is the same yesterday, today and forever. He has NOT changed His mind on the subject of homosexuality. So, why does MAN think he can do so, with impunity?

    Unlike the Quran, the Bible does not ever state that women are not equal to men. Sure, in some things, such as women remaining silent in the churches is there, but I am unaware of how anyone could cite Scripture in defending unequal rights. The same would go toward racial minorities in our nation or around the world.

    I would suggest that "our ever-increasing and expanding consciousness" is nothing more than an excuse to do as you please and to disregard such things as the Ten Commandments.

    Jesus furthermore never intended for His Parables to be understood by anyone, except for His Disciples and later, His called-out ones. Therfore, Christians cannot justify "same sex marriage," as the Bible is also clear on that issue. Marriage is between a man and a woman. No parable allows for or justifies the homosexual lifestyle, nor same sex marriage. Surely not.

    Political liberalism has crept it's way into the modern churches. It is not Scriptural, nor is political liberalism in anyway santioned by God. Liberalism is the way of men and is not part of God's Church.

  2. Hi Mr. One-Zero, now that my schedule has cleared up a little bit, I can reply a little more fulsomely.

    Just out of curiosity, do you or have you ever eaten bacon or shellfish? Have you ensured that you have never worn a garment woven of 2 different fabrics? Do you have a tattoo, by any chance? Have you ever had sexual intercourse out of wedlock? Masturbated? Watched porn? Have you allowed your wife to speak in church? Worked on the Sabbath? Cut your hair or trimmed your beard?

    I don't actually want an answer to any of those questions, but my guess is that you have missed the mark on a few of those, just as I have. In this discussion, we have both positioned ourselves as experts on Scripture and as people qualified to discern the will of God, which makes us both guilty of the same sin.

    Perhaps it should be less about pointing out the sins of others and focusing on our own.

    My point is that God's will does change. It changes a number of times in the Bible. Think of how many times Moses entreated God to spare His people, or how Abraham pleaded for Sodom. I do not know what denomination you belong to, but in the Anglican Church, we have a tradition of intercessory prayer, which by definition asks God to bend His will to certain people, places or causes, which by definition asks Him to change His plan.

    Would you, for example, claim that the equality of genders is an unGodly thing? Or that the Civil Rights movement is a bad thing? If you think they are, we have nothing left to talk about, but if you think they are good and God-inspired, then on these points alone, you have to admit that God's will is changing and being made known to us as history unfolds.

    Hope this helps.