Pastor Foley says that a fear of not getting into heaven is a typical motivation that many Christians have when reading the Bible. Therefore, many of us often read the Bible trying to find out what we need to do to “stay in.” Pastor Foley points out that the Bible is not an instruction manual for living and it was never intended to be one! When we read the Scripture in this fashion, it leads to the most “rank kind of judgmentalism that typifies the Christian experience.”
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The Reverend Dr. Eric Foley is CEO and Co-Founder, with his wife Dr. Hyun Sook Foley, of Voice of the Martyrs Korea, supporting the work of persecuted Christians in North Korea and around the world and spreading their discipleship practices worldwide. He is the former International Ambassador for the International Christian Association, the global fellowship of Voice of the Martyrs sister ministries. Pastor Foley is a much sought after speaker, analyst, and project consultant on the North Korean underground church, North Korean defectors, and underground church discipleship. He and Dr. Foley oversee a far-flung staff across Asia that is working to help North Koreans and Christians everywhere grow to fullness in Christ. He earned the Doctor of Management at Case Western Reserve University's Weatherhead School of Management in Cleveland, Ohio.
1 Timothy 3:16 tells us that the scriptures are there to equip is of good works. The scriptures may not be a manual telling us what to do to stay saved, but they surely guide us and help is make wise decisions as we follow Christ.
Love in Jesus,
Good to hear from you, Jeff. You’ve (graciously) been a reader of our humble blog for some time now, so between the name of the blog (Doers of the Word) and the number of posts we do in praise of works (like this one, by that very title: https://dotheword.org/2009/08/14/in-praise-of-works/), I know you won’t worry too much that we’ve somehow changed radically (our least favorite word) overnight and fallen off the theological deep end (or, perhaps more accurately, into the theological shallow end) as the result of a single three minute video clip. That being said, you’ve been around this humble blog long enough to know that we take toe-tingling delight in challenging all of us to regularly examine our presuppositions and categories biblically.
In the wider message to which this brief clip belongs, you’ll see that I’m contending that the Bible is neither primarily instruction manual for living nor is it treasure trove of the promises of God. Does it contain instruction? Oh, yes–ample! Does it contain God’s promises? Absolutely–no need to look elsewhere! But the Bible is primarily a revelation of the character of the holy God who is so fundamentally different than us that his revelation upends our definition of concepts like “good,” “works,” “guide,” “help,” “wise,” and “decisions.”
So in specific response to your gracious comment, I would nudge you a bit (as is always my wont) and say that God is not so much seeking to help us make wiser decisions as he is to completely transform our understanding of wisdom, and, thus, the Bible is not only first the revelation of the character of God but first, last, and middle a revelation of the God whose thoughts are not our thoughts and whose ways are not our ways; it is a surprise and not infrequently an offense not only to the world but often to those of us who dearly love the Lord and seek to follow him.
In the gospels, for example, the disciples sought to make wise decisions as they followed Christ. He had a near constant ability to upend their seeking through the revelation of his character, most especially on the Cross. And even with the Holy Spirit breathed upon them, the last third of the Bible shows the church still daily challenged by the revelation of the character of God.
My concern–especially for those of us who treasure the doing of the Word and see it as essential to the Christian life–is that we may become far too convinced that we “got the revelation” (of God’s character) and the real issue is to “get the wisdom” (to guide our daily lives). My own experience is that the farther and deeper I pursue the doing of the Word, the more the hearing of the Word shakes me–and all that I thought I knew about God–to the core.
Further love in Jesus!