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  • Bible Sunday, Biblicism and Baptists

    This coming Sunday is one of the dates for keeping Bible Sunday - which means that it is now four years since I preached with a view at Dibley because I recall taking that as the theme for one of my services - tempus fugit.

    The Bible reading (yes, there is only one!) set in the material I'm, using is tiny - Romans 15: 1 - 6 and a focus on verse 4 "everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope."  So much for Baptists as lovers of the Bible when we are content with six verses.

    Using the ideas in the material, I am hoping to encourage people to move beyond the 'comfort-eating' of their favourite passages or books and the 'snacking' of proof texts and tiny extracts towards a more 'balanced diet' of Old and New, familiar and strange, comforting and challenging.  Perhaps they maight even like to try a larger portion - supersized Bible reading?!.  I want to challenge the popular notions that the Bible is a 'how to' book or an 'answer book' and suggest as the old hymn says it is a 'book full of stories' which can teach us about ourselves and about God.

    I like the Romans verse because it sees the Scriptures not as the answer to a maiden's prayer (or a young male's either) but a source of encouragement.  For me, part of that encouragement comes from reading about the frail and fallen folk of bygone ages, of the times God's people got it wrong as well as the times they got it right.  Part of it comes from the authenticity and honesty of the psalmists, whether in praise, despair or anger.  Part of it comes because I believe the words of another old hymn "the Lord has yet more light and truth to break forth from God's word."

    Already this week I have come across a couple of incidents of Biblicism and their consequences. 

    I am working with someone who has quite a lot of issues, including very low self esteem.  I'd given her Psalm 139 "fearfully and wonderfully made" (and some violent bits too, granted) to ponder when we last met.  When we met this week she said that she could not believe that, and that the Bible notes she'd been given by a well meaning person all spoke of denying self - the very opposite of affirmation.  Her background is such that the Bible is meant to give answers, not encouragment to persevere (what I think the Romans bit says); what she needed, she told me, was to be held by God - and was astounded when I could reel off some verses that are 'somewhere in the Psalms and in Lamantations' (if it's good enough for Jesus and Paul to say 'it is written' without chapter and verse, it's good enough for me!) that express exactly this - and with the help of a concordance I will list some for her.  Biblicism as answers - it doesn't help people in tough places whose lives don't fit.

    Another person asked for advice on a topic where they had been told that a certain position was 'Biblical', again based on a narrow reading of this wonderful, diverse book we call the Bible.  Stoning adulterers in Biblical, slavery is Biblical, but we don't endorse either of them.  Simple, proof texted answers are all too easy to create- and to knock down if you actually know your way around this book.  I try to avoid it, though in years gone by I was a guilty as anyone of doing it.

    Baptists are, rightly, accused of Biblicism on occasion.  What we get right, is that we take the Bible seriously, we expect it to speak to us.  What we get wrong, is that we think that we already know what it says, effectively rendering it dumb.  The Bible isn't the answer to all our questions, it is useful for 'teaching, rebuking, correcting and training' (2 Tim 4:22, a quick proof text if ever there was one!!) but that doesn't mean that alakazam life will be good.  I suspect the church in Rome had a pretty tough time - it reads if Paul expected them to balance the encouragement they found from scripture with real life endurance (Romans 16:4).  This seems to me to allow scripture to speak, not reading from a script, but as the word from God into a very particular situation.

    Avoiding proof texting totally is tricky - I've used a couple of verses above to make my point.  Maybe there's something about being a Bibliophile (rather than just a bibliophile) that offers a helpful corrective to Biblicism?

    There is an old kiddies' song 'the best book to read is the Bible' and I suspect that's good advice - so long as we actually do read it to hear what it says rather to affirm our own opinions.

  • OWW Reflections

    Yesterday's OWW service was a somewhat odd experience.

    The congregation was mostly Baptists (my lot and D+1 who were sharing our worship this time) a fair smattering of Methodists (who were hosting and leading) and exactly 4 Anglicans (all taking part in the service).

    The service itself felt clumsy, although based on supplied material, with some overlong pauses and miscommunications along the way. The ending was very ragged with no one sure it was over.  Once it had ended, the Bappies all started chatting to each other, and continued so to do until the hosts switched off the lights!  Many of my folk commented on the lack of a cup of tea after the service, and I smiled inwardly recalling the uphill struggles to get them to do tea in the first palce!!

    A couple of people made it quite clear they did not agree with what was being shared.  One said he was not convinced that there was an environmental time bomb waiting to happen - if there was surely the gvernment would do more about it.  Another delcined to take a 'carbon footprint' questionaire, delcaring 'charity begins at home, this church is far too hot, turn your heating off.'  Whilst I agreed with him, it was far too hot, I have regualrly had my skull roasted when visiting his.

    The commissioned hymn was sung - and it felt all rather odd.  Heavy on complex language and not quite fitting the stresses of the tune (Sine Nomine).  Prize for the most obtuse line must go to "whose depradation despoils creation" - I had to get a dictionary out to be sure I'd understood that.

    The sermon certainly made some people think, judging by their expressions, and one retired Methodist minister said it was 'a good message' - something he wouldn't say if he didn't think so.

    I am still pondering what all of this care for the planet means for us with our Victorian barns of buildings and decrepit manses, all heated inefficiently, lacking insulation and double glazing, burning lots of gas and using loads of electricity all for a couple of hours a week.  I am trying to guess how the hymnbooks/hymnsheets vs technology debate works out from a conservation perspective (as these things are never as trivial as they seem) and whether some form of practical ecumenism withshared buildings and resources might not be sign of the kingdom.  Hmm.  Lots to think about.

  • Baptist Worthies? And other things historical

    I don't know, she takes a week off from blogging and comes back more plethoric than ever!

    The Baptist Historical Society will 100 years old next year and is having a big jamboree to celebrate this - right at the same time as I have to be in Bristol at a DPT summer school, typical.  Anyway, as part of it they are holding a competition to write a biography of a 'Baptist Worthy' - either one of 75 (76) blokes in a composite picture or 'someone else' presumably allowing us to scrabble around for a female worthy.


    I won't be entering the competition, I have more than enough other things to do, but it is intriguing... Who are the Baptist worthies?  Who is included/excluded from the composite picture and why?

    The BHS (the society, not the shop!) are also commissioning a history of themselves, which I will be very intrigued to read when it is published.  Given my growing interest in hisotriography, literary analysis and hermeutics (and eating dictionaries for breakfast) it will be fascinating to deduce who it is written for and what it is trying to say about itself.

    Maybe all this makes my work quite timely - and makes me wonder how my thoughts, when they eventually get onto paper, might be received.  Hmm.

    In the meantime, I'm going to make a plea for the inclusion of people like Miss Hargreaves whose "help in preparing a clean type-script, reading the proofs, and preparing the index' is acknowledged by A C Underwood in the preface to his 1947 publication "A History of the English Baptists."  Without these worthy folk, the great and good would not have been able to be so great.


    Pictures downloaded from Baptist Historical Society website www.baptisthistory.org.uk

  • Not quite a novel, not quite a collection of short stories

    I decided I couldn't title this post 'God is Dead' - the title of the book I'm currently reading - as it'd be a tad inflammatory.  The book is unsure about its genre - and that is part of what makes it quite clever I suspect.  It is in one sense a collection of short stories but it has an overarching metanarrative that is stronger than the 'these people all travel on the same train' link that some collections of stories have,

    In the first chapter God dies.  For anyone who has progressed beyond the 'God is a man in a long white dress' image, the idea that God chooses to visit earth as a Dinka woman is not espeically original; the idea that God can die and stay dead without the whole cosmos collapsing is a necessary precursor to what follows.

    I have read about half of the book, and it isn't a happy collection of tales, though it is thought provoking.  Essentially, I guess it explores not so much 'what if God died' but 'what happens when organsied religion dies?' 

    An intriguing read, 'God is Dead' by Ron Currie available from all good bookshops, and will make you think a bit

  • Variation on a Meme

    Sean has a new meme running on his blog which is fun and informative.  However, after racking my brain (or is that wracking?  I never did know) the only response I can come up with is

    "I have read enough theology to know that I have not read enough theology"

    So, I'm going to mutate his meme a bit (after all that's one of the things genes and memes are meant to do...)

    I have read enough piano music to know that no one can possibly play every note on the page of most 'proper' scores

    I have read enough risk assessments to know that most people don't know what they're talking about (you hadn't spotted that before had you?! ;-) )

    I have read enough novels to know that I have forgotten what 99% of them were about, except that most novelists only have one or two plots

    I have read enough books to know that even the best proof reading misses a few vital errors

    I have read enough to know that reading enough is something I will never have enough time for or feel I have had enough of


    So there you go, anyone want to add anything?