Z-Theory #14: the bible
One of the things I've struggled with ever since I was a young man was my complete devotion to the bible. When I first became a Christian at 16 years of age, a young man, a school teacher, personally took me under his wing and mentored me in the fine art of devotional bible study. I still have my first parallel bible extensively marked and colored and coded with my writing in the margins, as pictured here. It is a wonder to look at. One can't help noticing that I favored the Living Bible. I'll be forever thankful for Bruce, his care for me, as well as his intense passion for the bible that I inherited and which continues to this day. Later in my B.A. and then into my masters degrees, I focused on the bible. I took a few years of Hebrew, several years of Greek, and even Aramaic. While at College, I took as many courses as I could with Dr. Ben Aker. I'll never forget his Romans course, that enflamed my mind with an even deeper commitment to the bible. Then I was under the tutelage of Gordon Fee while at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, probably the leading New Testament textual critic of his day. My zeal for the bible was intense and long-lasting. But I would call my attitude toward the bible fundamentalist. Then some questions wormed their way into my well-fortified hermeneutic. I remember in seminary reading a small little book titled The Silence of Jesus: The Authentic Voice of the Historical Man, by James Breech. He took a Nietzschean approach to the sayings of Jesus. This little book not only pulled the rug out from under my feet, but took the floor with it. I remember feeling the enormous fear of free-falling into the dark abyss of uncertainty concerning the bible. It totally shook me. I was terrified. My personal terror even scared Lisa. These little worms nested in my mind, never to leave. I didn't know how to deal with it. Every once in a while I'd revert to my fundamentalist attitude. But I would struggle to reconcile this with what I felt about God and truth. Even though the bible and my interpretation of it was very literal, I was also open to a far less literal application of it. It was like I was a fundamentalist in my mind, but a liberal in my heart. I then would go down the never-ending road of which scriptures were to be taken literally and which ones to be taken metaphorically; which scriptures were timeless and which ones were ad hoc; which scriptures were wrong and which ones were right. If I could just get to the original manuscript's intention for meaning, then I would find peace. But this, I discovered, was just a more liberal expression of a fundamentalist approach to the bible. Finally, when I had my dream and started trying to articulate it in such expressions as the Z-Theory (type "z-theory" in the search box and read away), it made sense. I realized that the bible is a work of art. This is how I approach it now: as an artistic expression of Truth. It isn't meant to be taken literally, or converted into a book of rules, or read as an historical document. Although all these things find expression in the bible, it is first and foremost a beautifully inspired work of art. Having the shackles of fundamentalism finally drop from my mind, it has brought a peaceful reconciliation between my brain and my heart. I'm still grateful for the years of study in the details of the bible. For now I can enjoy the picture.