Thursday, September 20, 2007

Where the Past Comes Alive..., I was watching a program on the History Channel (about the development of the doctrine of Hell), and in the corner of the screen a little ad appeared saying, "Find out about the Scriptures of Christianity...only at". Wow.

Now, I don't want to eisegete what I saw; there's already too much eisegesis in our pulpits, in our books, and in the blogosphere. But...what a wonderfully loaded phrase!

First, there's the implication that we can only find out about the Scriptures on that particular website...a secular site devoted to history from a particular historiographic perspective. Don't get me wrong...I love the History Channel, watch it occasionally (though not regularly), and generally enjoy its programming. While I haven't investigated its website, I'm sure it has some nice info on the Bible and is probably correct much of the time. But, the notion that their website is the "only" place to find out about the Bible is interesting. (Again, I know the little ad was written from a marketing perspective, not a theological perspective, but, are many sermons preached each week!)

Second, there's an additional implication that the Bible is strictly "history". The ad wasn't on the Discovery Channel or the Learning Channel; it was on the History Channel. There are many devoted Christians who view the Bible as strict history...both liberals and fundamentalists...but that doesn't make it so. The Bible is, theologically speaking, our story, transcending history even while sharing some space with history, and we are fully expected to continue the narrative. It's more than history; it's alive, in a very special, unique way. The best place for a program on the Bible isn't the History Channel, it's ESPN!

Despite the wonderful nature of this divine and human book, we can make it so boring. Few things are as painful to sit through as a boring sermon. The material doesn't need "dressed up" or "modernized" or "made relevant" (it already is relevant) as much as it needs faithful passion and a desire to be used of the Spirit to show the life of the pulpits, in coffee shops, in hospitals, at the Eucharistic Table, in living rooms, in workplaces, wherever.

So, what are you doing to help the Bible to come alive to the people in your life? To yourself?


Jeff Kahl said...


Good thoughts, and you're right about the History Channel. Have you ever seen their biography of Jesus?... Bart Ehrman and John D. Crossan get the most air time of all the scholars they interview, so you know it's going to be a very skewed presentation!

Here's a couple things I do:

1. When I'm teaching a narrative portion of the Bible (especially one of Jesus' parables), I tell my youth to get creative with it and retell the story as if they were speaking an audience today. That gets them thinking about what the story means, instead of my just cramming doctrinal truths down their throats.

2. I try to tell them how those stories would have been heard/interpreted by the original audience. There has been so much great scholarship in the society/culture of 1st Century Palestine. Read N. T. Wright, Brad Young or Kenneth Bailey: they totally make Jesus' old parables come alive.

3. I also think it's important to do what Jesus did: to find things in the culture around us that illustrate the profound truths of the Gospel. If a movie, song, news story, or website communicate something compatible with biblical truth, I think we should not be afraid to use it and help the people interpret it through Jesus' eyes.

Anyway, those are a few thoughts in response.


Pastor Bill said...

Keith - right into the heart of my prayer life right now - I need to reclaim the passion for this "our story."

On a completely unrelated note, thanks for the Jacob's Trouble link (I thought I was the only guy in Western PA who remembered them - heh, though you cost me about half an hour this afternoon!!)

John Shaver said...

Keith, good thoughts. I like telling stories but I've found the more I've grown in my faith the best stories to bring transformation are right in the Bible. Thanks for the reminder and hopefully we'll live out some of the stories as we walk on October 7. Have a blessed week. Grace and Peace, John

Keith H. McIlwain said...

Looking forward to the CROP Walk's resurrection, John. We've had an outstanding response in our church, and in our local ministerium as well. We are actually having family in from out of town (Tijuana), so we're planning on making a family day of it, walking together. Thanks for your leadership on this project!

Randy Roda said...

I agree...but what does the word eisegete mean? I guess I must have slept through that class at PTS.

Keith H. McIlwain said...

Eisegete is the opposite of exegete. Exegesis is letting the text speak; eisegesis is reading something into the text, or making the text say what you WANT it to mean. Fundamentalists and liberals often use eisegesis, whether or not they realize it.

Greg Cox said...

Exactly why I would often rather preach the lectionary in order to avoid such issues. Too often I see themed sermon series based upon finding a text to prove a point, rather than letting the text move us toward revealing a truth.

Good post, Keith.

Corben said...

Interesting post.

I remember from business class any publicity is good publicity because it gets people thinking about the subject even if it is bad.

I know not everything fits in a neat box and not everything from business is appropriate, but truth is truth and it can be found anywhere.

The History Channel may not have been my first choice to represent Scripture, but it is as good as any as a jumping off point to share the truth of Scripture in a relational way.

I like using examples from stories, books, movies, and anything that can connect to people culturally while using it to explain and share Scripture.

Recently talking to younger generations I can share Harry Potter as it relates to Scripture like ideas of forgiveness, redemption, and much more.