Wednesday, January 6, 2016
Exodus TH Bible Study
EXODUS: Bible Study
This reference to an Eastern Orthodox blog serves as our beginning point. The Eastern Orthodox are especially attuned to the church Fathers and they have maintained a connection to the early church which is lost in the secular West. Being Eastern, they do not embrace the same assumptions as the West. Being ancient, they do not embrace the same assumptions as the Modernist (secular). They have never lived through the Protestant Reformation, because they split with Rome several centuries before Luther and were culturally differentiated in the millennium prior to that.
This discussion I reference is consistent with my teaching on history, but I provide the link as a means of encountering the discussion from a different view point. History matters because most of us read the Bible as Modernists with a modern/secular view of history. We are, generally, to some degree, "Fundamentalist" Modernists. This means that in the great debates about the "truth of the Bible" we claim the Bible is true, but we assume that the modern, secular, scientific ideas about truth are the measure of truth. In other words, we believe in facts and data. "Fact" as we use the term has been around since the 17th Century. Trying to figure out "what really happened" factually is a modern concern. What "really" happened is not about observable, one dimensionality. In our modern minds it is. So the modern person approaches truth from a different set of assumptions than the ancient person. We read their words and translate Greek or Hebrew into English, but fail to translate Ancient into Modern. The non-Modern view of things is dismissed as "mere fables" or "myths" or any other irrational communication. The post-Modern view, which is increasingly present among us, is a helpful critic of the Modernist, but at the cost of other equally problematic assumptions about truth and authority.
Ours is a simple Bible study for a group of white, middle class Americans, many of whom were born just after the great Fundamentalist-Modernist battles of the 1920's and 1930's. As children and grandchildren of this era, we are deeply shaped by its language and assumptions. Rather than try to deal with such a deeply engraved mindset, it is probably best to simply read the texts as sacred literature communicating God’s Word. By this I do not mean to diminish it, but rather raise it; asking "What is the story?" rather than looking for (secular) history with archaeological evidence of this or that event. Salvation occurs in real time, but it is a theological, not an historical concern... I prefer to treat the Bible as Revelation from God--God showing us Who He is and what salvation is. In light of this, the Orthodox perspective cited above is most helpful. Jesus. Jesus is the center of Revelation. Jesus is the purpose of Revelation. The Bible is about Jesus, all of the Bible. We read Exodus to encounter Jesus.
Maybe an analogy from Physics will help us as we conclude this brief introduction. The world of my childhood was ‘solid.’ We were made of stuff and there was stuff around us. In high school, I was introduced to the idea that the stuff was, in fact, not "solid." I resisted this idea, that there was more space than substance, as obviously false. "Walk into a wall," I said, "and I will demonstrate the error of such thinking." On the surface, I was correct, we are solid, but at a deeper level (atomic and subatomic) I was wrong. Molecules have more space than substance. I don't really even understand what molecules and atoms really are. I learned my Physics and made good grades, but the reality still baffles me! And that may be the point. Perhaps the "facts' approach sees reality simply in terms of "solid stuff" but maybe the underlying Divine reality being revealed (in ancient time to ancient people with ancient belief) is more mysterious--maybe there are unseen holes and energy beyond our imagining.
So the questions we ask are not centered on historical facts but rather on narrative meaning and spiritual principles. Understand, this is not a lower view of the text, but a deeper, fuller and more holy approach. History as gossip does not engage the heart or heal the soul. It becomes facts and factoids to be memorized. Rather, we read this book and seek a glimpse of the Face of God (something to be denied us), or better, to hear His voice and see His works. Along the way we may entertain questions about the history (in the modern sense) behind the text, but such questions are dangerous because the assumptions (those people see the world as we do) are simply untrue. Whatever else ancient Hebrew and Egyptian peoples were, they were not ever white, middle class or American--and they could never, ever be modern!