One: we believe everything the Bible says, therefore…
Two: we practice whatever the Bible says.
Scot’s reply was “Hogwash!”
What he observed instead was that we all pick and choose what we practice and that nobody, himself included practices all that the Bible says. This led him to one big question: “How, then, are we to live out the Bible today?”
Scot then looks at James 1.26-27, where James describes pure and faultless religion. For James, a pure Christian was one who showed compassion to orphans and widows and avoided being polluted by sin at all costs. Now, most conservative Christians that he has known emphasized not being polluted by sin, but they defined “polluted” in ways that had nothing to do with compassion for the marginalized and suffering. Polluted by sin was defined as going to the movies, drinking alcohol and sex before marriage. If one could stay clear of these things, then you were a good, solid Christian. These may not be bad things, but they hardly fulfill the prescription of pure religion described by James.
Scot began to ask, “How in the world were we reading the same Bible?” We were not following the plain words of James. Every one of us adopts the Bible and (at the same time) adapts the Bible to our culture. Everyone picks and chooses. But why do we pick and choose what to follow and what not to follow in the Bible? More importantly, how can we pick and choose “in a way that honors God and embraces the Bible as God’s Word for all times”?
Picking and Choosing
Scot gives a few examples of how we pick and choose what to follow in the Bible:
Sabbath – Sabbath observance was instituted in the Bible. It meant not working from Friday night to Saturday night (Ex. 20.9-10). This practice was even observed by some NT Christians but not really practiced by anyone he knew. What he was learning was that we sometimes, rightly or wrongly, live out the Bible by not doing something in the Bible.
Tithing – The Bible taught tithing, but the Bible does not insist that all of the tithe must go to a local church (storehouse tithing in some circles). The NT doesn’t even bring up the tithe. In the Bible the tithe is a combination of spiritual support (for the temple) and social service (for the poor, see Deut. 26.12). The tithe has instead become support for the local church building, ministers’ salaries, missionaries etc. Scot calls this morphing, that is, we took a tithe for temple assistants and also for the poor and turned it into a tithe for the local church.
Foot Washing – Jesus explicitly commanded foot washing in John 13.14. Widows performed this task (according to 1 Tim. 5.10) and Augustine writes about the practice of Christians washing the feet of the freshly baptized over three hundred years later. While some Christians still practice this, no one he knew was doing it. Thus, most of us were either ignoring what the Bible taught or morphed it into a cultural parallel (like offering hospitality). What he learned is that sometimes we “look behind the text to grasp a timeless principle and the principle is more important than doing the actual words” (15).
Charismatic Gifts – As we read 1 Corinthians 14, we find notes that Christians in Paul’s churches gave words of prophecy or had gifts of healing or spoke in tongues. No one he knew was doing any of these things (although there is a segment of believers who do), thus he learned from this experience that some read the Bible with a “that was then, but this is now” attitude.
Surrendering Possessions – There is nothing clearer than this statement by Jesus about possessions: “In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples” (Luke 14.33 also see 12.33). Very few were applying these verses literally. These verses evidently belonged to a different era and a different culture. Perhaps they were reserved for Jesus’ personal disciples? How did we decide such things? How do we know what to do and what not to do?
The Question is “How?”
How do we come to the answers we have for such issues? Why is it that two of us can sit down with the same Bible with the same questions and come away with two different answers? Scot discovered that it is not as easy to “apply” the Bible as he thought it is. How we read the Bible discerns how we are to live. There was plenty of picking and choosing on both sides of every question. That brought Scot to the vital question – How, then, are we to live out the Bible today? We don’t want to admit that we are picking and choosing. Scot believes it is time to think about why and how we pick what we pick and why and how we choose what we choose. What can we do to get ourselves to face this question honestly?