I have been doing a re-think on some of my Christian practices and "doctrine." I have been a believer for about 35 years, I am almost 60, and I have seen and witnessed a lot of what we would call empty legalism, making the Book everything. About seven years ago I discovered or shall I say a revelatory truth of Christ as my very life. I realized the total acceptance and my true identity in Christ that has totally changed how I view many Christian, evangelical truths that I was taught. As soon as I became a Christian I was handed a Scofield Study Bible and off I went. Your shadow series are mind blowing, and so true as to the everyday evangelical, fundamental Christian who has been taught an informational , systematic, scholastic and academic way to look at and there Christian walk and Bible. So I so appreciate your words and experience in sharing from within your inner being. Well that's it for now. Thanks Jim, for taking the time to read my email and respond. I welcome any other thoughts you may have, which I am sure can fill volumes. Let me know who has influenced you the most in your inward relationship with Christ. Pat B
Hello again, Pat :)
Glad to hear back from you. It is my pleasure to respond. :) I'm 54, so I'm just a few years behind you. This has been quite a journey, hasn't it? I still have my old loose-leaf Scofield Bible in a box somewhere. It was introduced to me as the epitome of Bibles to own. It was a must-have for the serious Bible scholar. I couldn't afford a leather-bound version so the cover really wore out because I would mimic the way a few other held their Bibles during their lectures. Truthfully, I thought it looked cool the way they would wrap their left hand around the curled-under bulk of the OT section so they could stand without a podium leaving their right hand to point or turn pages. However, with a cheap vinyl over stiff canvas cover (or whatever the material was) AND in the over-sized loose-leaf edition the effect was nowhere near the same. It seemed that the really cool Bible preachers were not necessarily sold on the loose-leaf version ... at least not for public exposure. It was way too bulky and stiff. Though I was aware of the less-than-impressive stance it gave, I did not give up in slowly bending and forming that Bible to fit my hand (I do have large hands). By the time I thought I had developed a somewhat impressive pose I had pretty much destroyed that thing! :) My next Bible purchase was not a KJV but instead an inexpensive albeit leather-bound New American Standard Bible. I had to examine many of them to find one with decent sized margins for making notes (that was always important to the serious scholar! ;) Of course, I couldn't use it for verse memorization while still in my last year of Bible College, but I can tell you that for me it was a radical change. I still prefer the NASB over most. I think this is the first time I've ever written anything about that old Scofield Bible!
I am familiar with the name of Frank Viola as in a discussion group a few years ago one of the moderators would post some chapters hoping to promote some discussion. I didn't read much of it, not because I wasn't interested, but because I'm a rather slow reader and especially since getting on the Internet I've found there is way too much reading material than I could possibly read and absorb (it really takes me a while to absorb what I read). So, even though I probably would have enjoyed a lot of Viola's stuff I didn't get to it. Also, given nature of that particular discussion group the subject matter of home churches didn't inspire a whole lot of discussion. I think many burnt-out, institutionalized believers are often not interested in another version of what had abused them for so many years. Many that I've encountered have already either heard of or have been involved in one or more home churches that only ended up being a mini-version of what they came out of. So, even though Viola may have some excellent challenges it easily falls flat or may actually promote instant rebuttals from those who are ready to combat what they perceive as just another legalistic setting. I've seen the same from some on my own discussion group. ;)
Ah yes, that revelatory of Christ as our very life! What an amazing difference that is to discover. :) I sensed it within me even before going to Bible College in the early seventies, as well as during my time there. I have come to realize that it was there and that it often gave me a sense of an unexplainable thrill ... a thrill which I would try to figure out by means of Bible study or questions. Under such a scholastic examination that witness of Christ within can so easily get overlooked. We appealed to God's words to vanquish that unfounded sensation of something so deep and so amazing. I thank him that it did not go away but remained a constant witness of the true life that is testified to in those written words by which we used to disprove it. haha! But as Jesus declared to the Pharisees that they were totally misreading the words of Moses since Moses spoke of HIM it is the same today.
Who has most influenced me? You know, I could give you some names, but I would have to tell you that in all honesty I have mostly been influenced by myself. Of course, we both know that would mean that it was Christ himself in me that has influenced me. However, I will give you a few other influences.
While in Bible College I was immediately impressed with the dynamic founder and president of the school, A. Ray Stanford. He could move an audience! Nevertheless, after getting over my initial infatuation I found a more down-to-earth approach by one of the other co-founders by the name of Dick Seymour. While others spoke of keeping scripture in context he pushed even a little further by actually examining verses a little more in depth. He had his own dynamic presence, but it was way more subdued. That really influenced me to not be so hasty in trying to project my own thoughts upon individual verses.
Another professor in my last year by the name of Hank Groff was not one of the standard home-brewed teachers that mostly taught classes but was one who came in from the outside. He taught a Homiletics course (the art of preaching) in which he totally ripped apart most of the approaches that were also used to prepare messages in both our school and various churches. I can't immediately recall the name of the approach he taught, but it was founded in taking a passage of scripture and then building your sermon solely from it. One after the other we were critiqued in front of the whole class for deviating from the passage to either try to force the passage to say what we wanted it to say or to appeal to another verse or passage to make the conclusion when the conclusion was right there in the passage we were building the message from. We were all shot down for creating sermons according to the principles we had learned during our whole scriptural lives! haha!
Slowly, I began to put myself into the place of the authors who wrote their accounts and letters and continued to search to context of the writing as a whole. I can tell you that it really blew away so many of the ridiculous premises based upon a verse here or there and even a larger passage here or there. It took the religious mystical approach out of those inspired verses upon which we had been examining "every word of scripture" to make our legalistic demands.
Now, there is no doubt that even the most honest approach to the Bible can still entrench one in his own legalistic stance, but when coupled together with the radical reality of the spirit within it ended up releasing me from the bondage to the written Word of God many have found themselves in. I realized more and more that these guys who penned the words we hold in such reverence and high esteem were people just like me, except that they had been brought into this reality in a time-frame and place that put them the core from which the truth was to be expressed. We have attached so much religious hogwash upon what is to be inspired by the holy Spirit that we can even get past a few buzz words and phrases without having to turn them into more Thus-saith-the-Lord demands and decrees. I have been able to hear the same basic things written by those men stated in ways that sound nothing even close to the religious interpretations we've put upon them ... and when seen for what it is we would never have heard those things in a legalistic manner as we do so now. It was the expression of this amazing LIFE in him that must be considered in view of the time and place it was first spoken.