Thursday, October 7, 2010
Biblical Blind Spots
I enjoyed listening to Dr. Jeffery Gibbs recently as he encouraged us to remember the Biblical teaching of the resurrection of the body in all our teaching and preaching. He is right: Too often we jump directly from death to heaven without any reference to Jesus' promises of the resurrection of the body.
Dr. Gibbs was speaking about this with his father-in-law, who replied that he was going to underline all the passages of the Bible that speak to the resurrection of the body. Dr. Gibbs told him that he better get "two pencils." There are many references to the resurrection of the body!
Why do we sometimes overlook such obvious and important teachings of the Bible? There are others teachings that sadly have become "blind spots" for us. I would add to the list the doctrine of election. When was the last time you heard a sermon on that doctrine?
I can think of three possible reasons and remedies for this:
1. We simply do not read the Bible as much as we should, and we often read it in snippets when in fact the authors intended their books to be read as a whole. I have struggled with this my entire ministry. Early on I made a vow that I would spend as much time reading the word of God directly in the original languages and in translations as I do secondary sources.
2. We forget the "Rule of Faith." The "rule of faith" is shorthand for "creeds and doctrinal summaries." The Apostles' Creed and Luther's Small Catechism are good examples. Some might think that these gifts actually foster Biblical illiteracy because people rely on them rather than reading the Scriptures. That can be a temptation. But the creeds and confessions of the church also challenge us to remember the key teachings of the Bible. A simple sermon series on the Apostles' Creed would force a pastor to illuminate potential blind spots.
3. We spend too much time reading secondary sources (commentaries/sermons/Bible studies) FROM OUR CONTEMPORARIES. Secondary sources are helpful as long as we are giving appropriate time to the text itself (see #1 above). But we also need to search through a variety of secondary sources that include interpreters from the past and from other cultural contexts.
Blind spots always need to be avoided. God has given us the appropriate tools to avoid them. I am praying that God will give me and all pastors the wisdom to use these tools properly.