Sunday, November 14, 2010

Sanitized Faith :: Unlock the Bible {13}

A year ago I started my first garden. Gardening in Texas has some special considerations, so I had to learn a lot about soil amendments and plant dates and frost dates. The first two seasons involved a lot of research, and a lot of learning.

By the third growing season (we get two a year here), I began to get a piece or two of produce here and there. For our current season (our fourth time around) we built a greenhouse to improve yield.

Then I realized my problems run far deeper than the ability to grow things. I discovered I didn’t want to eat my produce.

For starters, I didn’t know when to harvest it for best taste. It didn’t taste right after suffering through terrible soil and terribly hot growing conditions. But the biggest problem was that the produce didn’t look like grocery store produce. Cherry tomatoes the size of the tip of my pinkie. (Maybe we should call them pea tomatoes?) Yellow watermelon. Jalapeno peppers that turned red. Red/yellow/orange peppers of irregular shape and size, that stay green (I hate green peppers). Watery looking, tasteless fingerling carrots. Lima beans. Seriously? The one thing that grows vigorously in my garden is lima beans?

After a lifetime of getting my food all waxed and robust and sanitized from the store, it has taken more work than I expected to get used to eating out of my garden. I have had to consciously retrain myself to see backyard produce as food.

Sometimes it seems like this quest for honest food takes more work than it’s worth. But when I get a handful of baby tomatoes, they taste so much better than store tomatoes! And I love the satisfaction of knowing I grew that tomato plant from a seed.

So it goes with getting used to growing your own Bible interpretation, not just getting it all sanitized from the publishers.

As children in Sunday School, we are fed highlight stories of the Bible: Creation, Noah, Joshua, baby Jesus, the parables. As we grow, we learn about the armor of God, the fruits of the Spirit, the hymn of Christ. Somewhere along the way, we pick up a Study Bible, with a mini commentary down in the footnotes.

Eventually we get brave and start attending Bible study, or maybe even reading directly from commentaries to see what scholars and theologians have concluded after their in-depth research into a phrase or passage. But without realizing it, sometimes we end up with a sanitized faith, one built only on the insights of someone else. We live in an era of wide access to the scriptures through printed material and education. Let’s not delegate the beauty of discovering truth for oneself to anyone else!

Literary Lunchbox week has included tips and tools for Bible interpretation. These are valuable resources that I hope you learn how to use efficiently. Bible study tools provide valuable insight to us as we try to decipher the message of the Bible.

However . . . tools are not meant to substitute for our own personal study! Of all the things I learned in school about how to study the Bible and what tools to use for research, STEP ONE is ALWAYS to read it for yourself. Look for context, repeating words, all the things you will read about here before the month is through. And only after you have examined, questioned, and wrestled with a passage does the time come for further study.

As you read the Bible and attempt to draw conclusions about what you read, you may feel uncomfortable the way I am uncomfortable with garden-grown vegetables. But in the end, that backyard produce is so much more satisfying because you worked so hard for it. It’s totally worth the effort!

So go for it. Try your hand at interpretation. Then check it against a commentary. And let me know how you do!


  1. What a perfect analogy! Thank you for this unique insight.

  2. This is good stuff.

    I know I am keeping my 6 questions - I'm asking them all the time now. I have them on an index card in my Bible. Awesome. Thank you.

    And so true - although the meaning of Scripture does not change, the context in which we receive it does - and that time, space, circumstance and personality that we bring to Scripture - that can yield (farming term :) a billion different perspectives on the very same thing. God can do that. He's good that way.

    Once again, when you had the heart the other night to say, "just let it wash over you like the the salt surf" as I was drowning in the flood of words zooming by - I knew a heart like that needed to be read.

    I have two blogs starting tomorrow - I know I've only known you for two posts and a tweet party so far - but I'd love for you to spin by :)

    one is all about just 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 for ever and ever - every day

    the other is all about getting really deep into Scripture - these posts make me want you to read my not so sanitized interps :)

    You don't have to come by - I'll be back here anyway because I like green peppers :)

    I heart your words and your heart.

    I'm leaving a URL inthe comment box - it's only the second time ever I've done this - urrrrrrrgh I'm truly truly scared - but here goes...

    and thank you

  3. That is such a good analogy!

    "But without realizing it, sometimes we end up with a sanitized faith, one built only on the insights of someone else."

    Well put.


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