Passages that were originally written for groups of people, and intended to be read and applied in a community setting (the nation of Israel, the various early churches, the first followers of Jesus), have been manipulated to communicate a personal, individual message…thus leading the reader away from the original corporate intent of the passage to a reaffirmation of the individualistic, me-centered, and consumerist tendencies of American religious culture.
We see this everywhere: in worship set lists that focus exclusively on individual worship, individual sin, and individual connection to God; in desk calendars that turn Jeremiah 29:11 (“For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord…”) into a personal promise; in the disproportionate emphasis in our churches on personal Bible study, personal prayer, and one’s “personal walk with God.”
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Rachel Held Evans’ recent blog post touches on some very pertinent matters for contemporary Christ-followers. Taking the bible out of context, reducing it to a pithy verse or a nigh-on superstitious saying is intellectually dishonest and ultimately one of the most pernicious and deadly assaults on the modern Church. I hold my hand up and say that I have fallen victim to it, and I have also done it. Don’t get me wrong, this is not to say that when we read the bible (with awareness of the context in which it was written) certain bible verses don’t speak to us individually. They do. This is what happens when we read prayerfully, with the holy spirit (indeed, I’ve felt ‘led’ to share some such verses here on my blog). But when we have no regard for context it is intellectually dishonest and ultimately downright deceitful to pluck certain verses and pretend they are a once-spoken panacea for all my life’s ills or, for that matter, direct and personal instructions for my life, or that of my family, or church, etc.
Excellent post, well worth the reblog. Do click the link and have a read.