Our study is about the Bible being the "foundation" of revival. That seems a bit odd at first glance. If the lesson claimed that the Bible was the foundation for reformation, that would make perfect sense. Who reads the Bible to become converted? It seems that you hear the gospel, give your heart to God, and then read the Bible to better understand. Well, maybe not. Consider how our series started. We learned that we are living during the "lukewarm" age of the church. Those already in the church have heard the gospel. Thus, if we want to revive those (like us) who are already in the church, we need something more than the initial excitement of being converted. Let's plunge into our study of the Bible to discover its role in revival!
Commentary for the July 20, 2013 Sabbath School Lesson
“In the beginning was the Word…” John 1:1a “And God said…” Genesis 1:3a, NIV
We live in a world where everyone has the potential to be connected with everyone else on the planet through the internet. Through devices little bigger than a deck of playing cards, we can access staggering amounts of information. We can verify if something is true or false in an instant. However, we often fail to do so, sending on spurious information with little effort to fact check. When this happens, our great resource becomes nothing more than a faster means to spread old wives’ tales and gossip. In spite of this, we find ourselves drawn into the virtual world, even preferring it sometimes to reality.
In almost every public setting we see individuals oblivious to their surroundings as they sit mesmerized by a tiny glowing screen. The power of these glowing bits of liquid crystal to hold our attention is so great that the devices are sometimes prohibited at certain events, summer camps and in schools. We have all attended meetings where almost everyone is paying more attention to these devices than to the meeting.
Young people used to have raucous gatherings with boom boxes and loud social interaction. Now they often simply sit quietly with ear buds in place listening to iPods, smartphones, iPhones and tablets preferring to stay plugged in to their virtual friends rather than interacting with those sitting next to them. Certainly, some still cruise main street with the mating beat of subwoofers emanating from their vehicles, but these are “old school” and the heavy bass often falls on deaf ears as mating rituals all too often take place online where cars and their music systems only play peripheral roles.
All this has dramatically changed how we obtain information. In less than a generation, we have gone from books to bytes. While books are transitioning to digital formats, some might question whether or not they will survive in the long term as multimedia formats provide a more immersive and compelling experience. On the other hand, are text messages a foretaste of things to come as words become more concise yet still able to convey the intended meaning? Perhaps words may evolve to pictorial symbols. After all, aren’t words simply symbols themselves?
As Christians we place a great deal of emphasis on words and books. We especially hold the books of the Bible in high regard. Some may even go so far as to practice a form of bibliolatry. In such case, they may even reject the Holy Spirit if it does not agree with their understanding of the Bible. This was the case with many of the Jews in the time of Jesus. They truly worshipped the creation rather than the Creator when they rejected the Source of the very scriptures they claimed to obey. As the Israelites came to worship Nehushtan[i] instead of the God who provided the healing through that brass serpent, so some then and now worship the Bible instead of the God whose word it represents. While the Bible may be seen as foundational to the Christian faith, there was a time when even its earliest books did not exist.
Even taking the most conservative view possible and assuming an earth only six millennia old and assuming an early 16th century BC exodus from Egypt, we find a vast period without a Bible. If Moses penned the first books as some might assert, then there was a period of at least 2,500 years with no Bible. Perhaps there were earlier writings. Maybe the Gilgamesh Epic and others made up that pool of earlier texts, but they differ so much in detail from what Moses is alleged to have penned that one might question whether there really were any uncorrupted, reliable texts from which Moses could derive his account. Perhaps there was a proto-mosaic version that predated Moses, but it has not been found.
In view of this lack of evidence for a written tradition for the mosaic version, some have maintained that there was an oral tradition that was passed down through the thousands of years before Moses. While this may be true, it might also be cause for greater concern about such an account’s reliability. Many of us have played the game where a secret is whispered and passed from one person to the next until the final person shares what they were told out loud. Often the final telling differs significantly from the initial telling.
We see this in more recent history than Moses’ day. During the medieval period known as the Dark Ages, many, even among the nobility, could neither read nor write. Instead troubadours and poets would carry about versions of significant events to recite from memory. Oftentimes those recitals would begin with a litany about their version being correct and troubadour A, B or C’s version being questionable. Geoffrey of Monmouth wrote a history of England that heavily relied on these oral traditions but in spite of the significance of his work, we question the historicity of his tales of giants and other mythological beings and events.
While some may not consider this remarkable or worthy of concern when it comes to the Bible, it may rise to the level of being so when a peculiar version or interpretation of the Bible is idolized. When this happens and it is made foundational to the faith of a denomination, sect or even an individual then that faith may stand on shaky ground.
When an understanding of scripture peculiar to the Roman Catholic Church that maintained that the earth was the center of the universe was challenged, it shook the church, and in order to defend its orthodoxy, the church persecuted those who would challenge their preferred world view. While most modern Christians would probably never challenge the present view of where the earth sits in the cosmos, they are nonetheless manning the very same trenches over a literal six day, twenty-four hour day creation. They also would roll back many of the understandings of the cosmos already arrived at that challenge the possibility of short earth history. Perhaps one day, some will look back at this time and wonder why the Bible was placed over observation and experimentation in our day. Maybe they will see little difference between the Christians of our day and the Church of Rome that challenged Galileo.
So what then is the role for the Bible in our time? Perhaps its greatest value lies in being the history of a people’s search for understanding, a search that was comfortable with maintaining a place for the unexplainable. When we consider the infinite cosmos, our finite understanding guarantees that the unexplained will always vastly exceed that which we know. Maybe it is important that we reserve a place for those mysteries. The Bible offers a paradigm for doing that. It offers a God who is everywhere at every time and thus omniscient and eternal. What a great idea to entrust the infinite mysteries to Him.
In the meantime, some might feel threatened while others search for answers to those mysteries. I doubt that God does. Some might want to use a peculiar perspective on the Bible to stymie research and development. God, on the other hand, feels comfortable saying, “Come now, let us reason together….”[ii] He not only feels comfortable with us using our minds to grow in our understanding, He encourages it.
The Bible is a record of man’s growth in understanding the world around him over approximately fifteen hundred years. Perhaps God did not intend that growth to stop when the Bible reached the form we have it in today. While bibliolatry might have us believe that nothing of significance happened outside the Bible record before the Bible was written and would deny any significant ongoing revelation today, we might wish to revisit that idea. Especially when it appears that God, also, might not have agreed with the Bible at times.
One clear example would be the story of Ruth. She was a Moabitess who married Boaz. The Bible says that a Moabite could not be a part of the congregation of Israel for ten generations.[iii] However, David, Ruth’s great grandson, was chosen by God to be king over Israel.[iv] How could this be? Perhaps it is because the story of the Bible is one of a progressive understanding of compassion. From the earliest times man has tended to be violent and vengeful. However, as the Biblical narrative reveals, God has intervened to redirect man toward a more compassionate relationship to others. Isaiah, chapter 58, may be a high point in that understanding in the Old Testament.
Jesus echoed that sentiment in His life and His parables. Perhaps it is found in the New Testament most clearly in the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats.[v] If the Bible is foundational to anything, compassion may be it. If we could succeed in replacing our vengeful vindictiveness with compassion, we might once again find ourselves on the path of progressive understanding that the Bible portrays. Isn’t that what revival is all about?
[i] 2 Kings 18:4
[ii] Isaiah 1:18a
[iii] Deuteronomy 23:3
[iv] 1 Samuel 16
[v] Matthew 25:31-46
"The Word: The Foundation for Revival" July 20, 2013
Psalm 119:50, 74, 116; Hebrews 4:12; 11:3; John 5:39; Hebrews 4:1, 2; Acts 20:27-32
A fitness club for your brain? That's right. Neuropsychologists at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center are using diverse methods to treat brain conditions commonly caused by aging, such as dementia and Alzheimer's. Medications, at best, delay deterioration for a while. Now, doctors, who once scoffed at such training, which often focused on computer games, are trying a whole-body approach to help people with cognitive challenges, concussions, and even ADHD.
"If you'd asked me eight to nine years ago if I believe in cognitive training, I'd have said 'pfft.' But the research is quite convincing," said Bonnie Wong, a clinical neuropsychologist... Research suggests people may be able to delay or minimize symptoms of diseases like dementia by keeping their brains "fit." Wong and her colleagues are starting what they envision as a gym for the mind, offering brain training exercises - including specially designed computer games - as well as nutritional and lifestyle coaching, social opportunities, and classes in meditation, music, and yoga.1
The service for patients at this hospital is called the Brain Fit Club. The methodology is based on a new theory that our brains can change, even as we age. Previously, most thought aging made the brain rigid. But current research shows an amazing level of "plasticity" and adaptation. When some parts of the mind are damaged, it is possible for the brain to reorganize so that other parts can take over.
In our Sabbath school lesson for this quarter we've been studying Revival and Reformation. This week's topic focuses on the Bible and its role in revival. We learn that the Scriptures are foundational to true revival and that through the Word of God our minds are renewed and transformed. "For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart" (Hebrews 4:12).
While fitness and diet play an important role in healthy brain function, nothing can replace the immense impact on our minds that comes to us through personal Bible study. In Monday's lesson, the author refers to the following quotation: "The creative energy that called the worlds into existence is in the word of God. This word imparts power... It transforms the nature, and re-creates the soul in the image of God" (Ellen G. White, Education, p. 126).
The Bible is more than a college textbook. It does not stand as an equal with Shakespeare or the New York Times Best Seller list. The Word of God, taken by faith, will bring fitness to your brain like no cognitive club could ever match.
1. Boston Globe
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