Rules for Interpreting your Bible

bibleIn December of 2013, the final two White Horse Inn broadcasts for the month covered ten rules for interpreting the Bible.  If we fail to follow proper rules for interpretation, we can stray very widely from the intent of the scripture.  I know I did for decades.  Not everything in scripture is equally clear either, but without studying the things we can know, we will never understand exactly why we believe what we believe.  These two conversations were very helpful to me, so I’m sharing the ten rules with a little commentary.

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The Blessing of Imputed Righteousness

cross-praiseFirst Post:  The Dilemma of Imposed Morality
Second Post:  Guilt and Imposed Morality
Third Post:  The Trouble with Personal Morality

We started this week talking about the dilemma imposed morality.  The dilemma is in conformity.  No matter how moral someone may act, they are no more or less righteous than the non-conformer.  In fact the person conforming may be worse off if they believe their conformity provides them with any righteousness before God.  (Romans 3:20)

We covered the difference between guilt based on how someone else feels about our actions, which generally leads to conformity, and guilt based on God’s word, which has the power to result in true repentance (Ephesians 5:26)

Yesterday, we looked at potential problems with personal morality.  When we believe that personal morality (or lack thereof) impacts someone’s relationship with God or when we believe that personal morality makes someone more (or less) spiritual, we’ve completely missed the point of personal morality and it becomes a problem for us.

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The Trouble with Personal Morality

check-listFirst Post:  The Dilemma of Imposed Morality
Second Post:  Guilt and Imposed Morality

I didn’t originally plan a series over this, but it seems that’s what I’ve turned it into.  In the first post we covered the problems created when an imposed morality results in conformity (based on guilt) to that morality.  Despite how moral someone may act, they are no more or less righteous than the person who doesn’t conform.  In fact, they may be worse off as they may believe themselves to be “OK” when they are, in fact, not.

We also talked about the appropriate guilt (godly sorrow) that is created when we are confronted with the truth of God’s law.  This guilt results in repentance (II Corinthians 7).  The major difference between the two is that guilt based on how we’ve made someone else feel generally leads to conformity while guilt based on God’s word has the power to generate true repentance (Ephesians 5:26)

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Guilt and Imposed Morality

shameStart Here: The Dilemma of Imposed Morality

(Note:  I’m not entirely pleased with my ability to communicate what I am trying to say in this post.  Please don’t read more into it than what I am saying plainly.  Also, please ask if you have questions.  My intention is to be clear, but clarity seems elusive today.)

Yesterday I started talking about imposed morality, more specifically the problems of trying to use guilt to manipulate someone into following our moral code.  The bottom line I suggested is that when someone simply conforms to our suggestions for morality they are no more righteous than when they were before they conformed.  And that our use of manipulation through guilt and shame over how the person’s actions make us feel are far less likely to cause genuine change and more likely to cause simple conformity.  Only God can change a heart and it is only God who can effect a genuine transformation as opposed to conformity alone.

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The Dilemma of Imposed Morality

Flickr (by chrisnicolson)

Flickr (by chrisnicolson)

Well, in addition to missing yesterday’s post, I’m starting early today so that I can reread and edit what I say in this post.  So, that’s two rules I’m breaking in my Lent writing project.  I’m guessing we will all get over it; however, some events happened recently that have me thinking and I wanted to communicate my thoughts both clearly and effectively (well, as effectively as possible).  Hopefully my thoughts will help at least open your thoughts to these ideas and give you something to consider even if you don’t agree.  With that in mind (my desire for thought provocation) I’m also going to break another “rule” and share this on Facebook.

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Evangelical Egotism

I’ve had my first missed day yesterday.  Sorry about that.  If you, kindest of readers, will accept my apology, we will consider the failure covered by grace and move on.  If not, we can both wait here until you will accept my apology.  (I will wait patiently for you.) Read the rest of this entry »

Why Would You Do That?

With the issues being raised about Christopher Peterman being expelled from Bob Jones University, I’ve heard a question asked that needs to be addressed.  I’ve heard this question and been annoyed, frustrated and/or angry.  If you are looking for more information about the situation with Christopher, his statement (in video format) is below, and another excellent blog post can fill in the information.  (I have strong thoughts on this, but I feel it is important to answer this question.)  So, what is the important question?

If you know what BJU is like and disagree with BJU, why would you go there for college?

This question is being asked from two different sources, and that’s why my reaction is different.

First, there are folks from the outside of BJU Christian fundamentalism that are asking this.  After all, reviewing the background and story of Christopher, he seems to be a normal, reasonable, intelligent young man.  He has an obvious desire to see the right thing done.  Why would someone that seems so reasonable even think about attending somewhere like BJU?  The question is sincere and comes about because the person asking is genuinely confused.  I respect this, but the constant repetition of the question is frustrating.  That is the reason for this blog post, and it is you to whom I speak.

Second, there are BJU apologists (or quasi-apologists) who are asking why someone would go to BJU if they don’t agree.  This blog post is not for you.  Let’s face it, you probably wrote me off when I confessed anger up above.  Besides, until you come to the realization that someone can be perfectly OK before God and still disagree with you, there isn’t much else to talk about.

So, why would someone like Christopher (and me) go to someplace like BJU?  Well, there are a handful of reasons for going and returning, but essentially, they boil down to two simply concepts that drive people into bad decisions all the time.  Money and deceit.

Money

Quite frankly, as unfortunate as it is, education is expensive.  College costs and, for most people, our parents are a large part of our college support.  Whether that support comes in actual tuition or just in providing a place to live and eat while going to school, the financial support of parents plays a large part in our ability to go to school.

So, when a parent demands that their child attend Bob Jones University, there isn’t much of a choice involved.  Either the student has to figure out how to “go it their own” or they duck their head and go to Bob Jones University.  Depending on the student this may last and it may not.  I had friends expelled and voluntarily leave during the year and I know of many who never attended after their first semester or year.  Finances are a huge factor in the decision making process, but when combined with the deceit involved, it is doubly effective.

Deceit

Deceit is the key issue that drives most students to Bob Jones University.  I’m not talking about deceit of the university.  Although the deceptions over accreditation has worked to retain students, I don’t believe that is a primary issue for getting students.  No, I’m talking about the subtle deception of a world view.  The deception of the system created by Bob Jones University’s brand of Christian fundamentalism.

As a high school student I went to a church and attended camps and youth rallies that promoted this mindset.  Here are a few “truths” that I “learned” about college and how to make the choice of where to go.  (For what it is worth, I attended college over 20 years ago and this story hasn’t really changed.)

At a secular college:

  • Professors and administrators will actively work to destroy your Christian faith.
  • Professors have little to no concern over whether you actually learn anything or not.
  • No one studies or cares about their grades.
  • You will be exposed to all sorts of evil like beach parties and drugs.
  • You will be forced to participate in drunken orgies every weekend.
  • You will likely have to step over kids (multiple couples) having sex in the hallway just to get from your room to class.  Every time.
  • You will probably lose your religion and become an alcoholic.

Other Christian colleges:

  • Liberty University (yes, Jerry Falwell) was a bastion of liberalism that was no different than secular schools.
  • The only reason someone would attend Pensacola Christian College is because they wanted to weekend at the beach.  (Evil sinners!!)
  • There were no other Christian universities, they were just Christian in name.
  • Tennessee Temple University had gone “the way of the world”.

This was the mindset and fodder that is fed to high school students and their parents by respected leaders in the churches and Christian schools.  We all know it is easier to accept and believe what you are told than to actually do research on your own, so this mindset finds root and becomes truth regardless of what life is really like.  As a “good Christian” kid, you really don’t want any of the above, or, at least, you don’t want anyone to know that you want it.  The only “good, Christian” thing to do is to go to Bob Jones University.

Now, I won’t say that some of the above might be true in some cases, it is hardly the norm for either category.  Some of the things were just untrue, others were just enough deception mixed into the truth to be enticing.  And, honestly, I don’t really fault the preachers, teen evangelists, and youth ministers who told us these things.  Sure, some of them may have known better and used these lies to control people, but for the most part I give them the benefit of the doubt and suggest that they were just as deceived as we were.

It is difficult to make an intelligent, appropriate decision when everything you have ever been told is lies about reality.  One of the foundational principles of Bob Jones University’s brand of Christian fundamentalism is a very strict us-verses-them mentality.  The “us” is very tightly limited, and even many who think they are part of “us” are kept at arms length.  And the “them” is not only “verses”, but is actively out to “get” the us.  Honestly it is almost clinical paranoia.  From that framework and world view, a high school student choosing a college has very little in the way of real options.  And making the wrong choice can result in being pushed further than that “arm’s length” away or even in being fully ostracized as an outsider.

Overall, there is way too much baggage and social drama within the “group” to allow a student to make a reasonable choice to attend somewhere other than BJU.  The more a student has invested money and time at BJU, the harder (and more costly) it is to pull away before they are done.  BJU is not SACS accredited and not only do credits not easily transfer, but they are worth much less than the unaccredited degree the student would earn.  (Accreditation is an entirely other issue covered by other skilled bloggers.)

Yes, it is sad and confusing that someone would choose to go to Bob Jones University.  Hopefully, this will help you understand why a student might go there and why that student might stay and try to finish.

~CC

PS – Here’s Christopher’s story about what really happened.