"Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers." - VoltairE

Do you take the Bible literally?

September 22, 2020


I’ve been asked this question a number of times and it’s a tricky one to answer as it all depends on what the questioner means. If they mean ‘Do you take the Bible seriously as the authoritative word of God?’ then the answer is yes. But if they mean ‘Do you think that every piece of writing in the Bible is literal description?’ then no.

Let me explain. The Bible is a library of 66 books written over a period spanning about 1370 years by 35 different people, for different purposes. There are many different types of writing including biography, poetry, narrative, teaching, apocalyptic, prophecy, letter and genealogy. Each style of writing uses particular literary devices - like metaphor, simile, idiom, hyperbole – and each needs to be understood and interpreted according to its genre.

Let’s examine one particular literary device – the metaphor. Here are a couple of examples:

But soft, what light through yonder window breaks? It is the east, and Juliet is the sun!” —Romeo & Juliet, William Shakespeare

'Cause baby you're a firework / Come on show 'em what your worth / Make 'em go "Oh, oh, oh!" / As you shoot across the sky-y-y — “Firework,” Katy Perry

Do we really think that Juliet is the hot ball of glowing gasses at the centre of our solar system, or that Katy Perry is singing about someone who is filled with gunpowder and shouldn’t be allowed too near the gas hob? Of course not!

When it comes to the Bible, we find the same thing. Many books are rich in metaphor and symbolism which isn’t meant to be taken literally. The book called Song of Songs is a beautiful (and racy) love poem which is full of non-literal descriptions of the lovers (“Your eyes behind your veil are doves.” and “You are a garden fountain.” for example.)

Idiom is something else that we’re very used to in daily life, but we sometimes fail to take into account when we read Scripture. When an English person says “It’s raining cats and dogs”, nobody thinks that it means that dachshunds and tabbys are falling out of the sky. But if we’re from another country or culture, we might be thoroughly perplexed! Many of our idioms actually come from the Bible (‘A fly in the ointment’, ‘the blind leading the blind’, ‘the skin of your teeth’, ‘go the extra mile’, ‘thorn in your side’, ‘writing on the wall’ etc.) but there are many more that we need some cultural and contextual appreciation to understand. We need to approach the Bible in the same way that we’d approach other text – with an appreciation of its style and an understanding of how language is being used.

So my answer to the question ‘Do you take the Bible literally?’ might have to be ‘Yes, except the parts that are metaphorical.’

 

Misunderstood lyrics and the Bible

September 15, 2020


Remember the Beatles song Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da? We used to sing it in school choir. One of the lines is ‘Desmond takes a trolley to the jewellery store.’ which had me really confused. I used to think that Desmond was buying so much jewellery that a basket wouldn’t be big enough. It was years until I realised that ‘trolley’ meant ‘trolley bus’ - the mode of transport that Desmond used to get to the jewellers.

This silly example shows how important it is to understand cultural and li...

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Free classic Christian books

August 28, 2020
Even though I own loads of actual, physical books, I've rediscovered my Kindle recently and am enjoying the fact that you can get lots of quality books for free.

The best way to find Christian classics is to do a search of Kindle books in the Christian category that are rated 4 stars or higher and sort them by price from low to high. Here's one I prepared earlier. (There's some rubbish in there, but plenty of treats for the discerning reader.)

I found a decent selection by Spurgeon including:
  • Be...

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The way she tells 'em

July 15, 2020
Back in May, I had one day (31st May to be precise) where I suddenly decided to write some poems. I ended up writing 15 on a range of themes. Here's one of them that I hope you'll enjoy.



The way she tells 'em

A funny thing happened
the other day.
Now was it Tuesday or Wednesday?
I think it was Wednesday because
it was the day my new secateurs 
arrived through the post.
No wait! It was Tuesday 
when Sheila rang with the news
that her cat had had kittens
and her daughter had mumps.
Anyway, it was raining.
N...

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Picture This Thought - Statue of Liberty [Freedom]

July 5, 2020
What does it mean to be free? What does true freedom look like?

We talk about political freedom, freedom of religion, freedom of movement and free speech, but how free are we really?

This is a short exploration of the ways in which our freedom is restricted and how Jesus brings true liberation.

“If the Son [Jesus] sets you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8: 36



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Cryptic names and descriptions of God quiz

June 30, 2020


1. Postman who does weights
2. Opposite of Cyclops
3. Posh yes, discover the mass
4. I am a Spanish waiter
5. Swedish supergroup
6. Hi third person singular
7. Monarch’s son of green vegetables
8. 1990s chat show
9. Eating flames
10. Like Greyfriars Bobby perhaps?
11. At the very top
12. Very old, periods of time
13. Unfit sock of Jerusalem’s land
14. Souvenir from Blackpool?
15. Winner of ‘One man and his dog’
16. Lots of money for finding a lost pet
17. An inhabitant of Stoke on Trent’s professio...

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Joel chapters 2 and 3 - A short talk

June 29, 2020
This is the second half of my series on Joel, which I prepared for our online church service yesterday. It's a 15 minute exploration of this fascinating prophecy and how it tells the story of God's grand plan for his people, from creation in Genesis to new creation in Revelation.


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Joel chapter 1 - a short talk

June 21, 2020
I preached at online church this morning on Joel chapter 1, which is a fascinating passage and very relevant in our current circumstances.

You can watch below (13 mins) and the final part will be posted next week.


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The case for Christian humanism

June 21, 2020


I just watched a video about humanism which I found very interesting, particularly because of the use of words like ‘wonder’, ‘awe’, ‘dignity’, ‘infinitely precious’, ‘miraculous’. There’s lots that I can agree with, even if I don’t hold to the overreach of scientism or the naive optimism that we can all somehow get along fine if we try to be good and use ‘common sense’.
Many people don’t realise that humanism owes a lot to a Christian worldview. The difficulty is...

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Who will remember you?

June 5, 2020


I’m working my way through 1 Chronicles at the moment and I must admit I’m finding it quite tedious. A lot of the book consists of a long list of names; fathers and sons, families and daughters and wives - just a long list of people who don’t really mean anything to me. It’s tempting to skip over all these genealogies. After all, none of us really know who any of these people are and, unless you’re a Jewish historian, you probably don’t really care much about who Hazarmaveth or Ad...

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