Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Other Side of the Coin

3:16 PM

So I grew up pretty conservatively. Church on Sundays, a Christian school that teaches KJV only from kindergarten to high school graduation. Conservative. I grew up learning the Bible stories, complete with flannelgraphs, and memorizing Scripture thanks to AWANA's. Now I'm not knocking this upbringing. I am very thankful for the solid foundation on which I was raised. It provided stability and support during challenging times. And the first time I was challenged was during my freshman year of college.

I managed to attend 3 different colleges in 4 years and still graduate on time. Talent, I know. The first college I attended was a local private college. And one of the required courses they had was New Testament survey. I went in knowing it would be a cake walk. I knew the New Testament backwards and forwards. But as the class went on, I realized I didn't know this New Testament that my professor was teaching. Why was she saying the Paul didn't write some of the letters he claimed he did? Why did she imply that Paul was writing things that may not been inspired by God? And the kicker, that Revelation was not a book about future events, but the history of Rome. I remember being furious after that class! Thinking that this lady was a false prophet. I even went and told my youth pastor & his wife about what she taught and they laughed at the absurdity of it all with me. Pure nonsense.

Or so I thought.

I've come to learn a lot of things during the 7 years that have passed since then. My views on God have evolved. My theology has deepened. My relationship with God has a very different shape today than it once had. And more recently, my views on Scripture have shifted.

Oh I still believe it's the divinely inspired Word of God, and it's complete truth. But what if I've been reading it through the wrong lens. What if some books like Job or Esther, didn't actually happen but were allegories for the character of God. And what if Revelation was a letter regarding the Roman Empire.

Hear me out...

“Imagine how dangerous it would be if were Christians who skipped over the first-century meaning of John's letter and focused only on whatever it might be saying about future events, years and years away. There is always the chance that in missing the point, they may in the process be participating in supporting and funding the carious kinds of systems that the letter warns against participating in, supporting and funding. That would be tragic. That wouldn't be what Jesus had in mind. That would be anti-Jesus. That would be anti-Christ. Were the people in John's church reading his letter for the first time with Roman soldiers right outside their door, thinking: 'This is going to be really helpful for people two thousand years from now who don't want to get left behind'? “ (Rob Bell, Jesus Wants to Save the Christians p134)

Funny, huh. To hear about the Caesars of the day and their caesar-worship and olympic games, and how much of that language is mirrored in John's letter. Maybe there was some validity in my freshman New Testament professor's claims about this text. Maybe God is yet again, bigger than I thought He was. And maybe I still have more to learn about my Savior and His Word.

For more reading, check out Ethelbert Stauffer's Christ and the Caesars

About the author

Joy Muldoon is a full-time missionary and part-time blogger. Read about her travels, adventures, and missions here!