MAKE THE BIBLE WORK FOR YOU Monday, Oct 19 2009 

{This is a modified version of an article first published on the now obsolete Religious Humor & Satire site of Suite101.com}

 

 An infomercial for Christian television.

The program opens with flashing scenes of smiling people in everyday situations, such as a young couple sailing, a family going to church, and some teenagers at a football game. In the background, lively contemporary music is played, and the booming voice of an unseen announcer is heard.

Announcer: Imagine being free from the needless guilt that often accompanies trying to live a righteous life. Picture what it would be like to have an answer for all your friends at church when they try to point out flaws in your walk with God. Just like these people shown here, you too can be a happy Bible believing Christian without the added pressures of conviction and repentance. Now, the secrets that used to be owned by ambitious denominational leaders, institutional church political types, and Christian special interest groups are available to you. These secrets can be discovered through the new, life-changing course called, MAKE THE BIBLE WORK FOR YOU.

The music hits a crescendo as the final scene fades out. Simultaneously fading into view are two men and one woman, all in business attire, seated in a semicircle of office chairs in a room that resembles a pastor’s study. The room is complete with walls of shelved books, several framed diplomas, and a large screen TV. The announcer’s voice is heard once again.

 

Announcer: And now — the creator of MAKE THE BIBLE WORK FOR YOU, Dr. Lou Dicrous, along with his special guests, Charlotte Tann and Cal Usbrain.

Dr. Dicrous:Well, after your guaranteed thirty day trial period, tell our viewers at home what you think of my Bible study system.

Charlotte: Please let me begin. I found it to be awesome. I never dreamed the Bible could be so accommodating to the lifestyle of a career woman like me.

Dr. Dicrous: How so?

Charlotte: Well, I was caught in a moral dilemma at work. My immediate boss was spying on my superior boss by breaking into his office and reading his e-mail. One day, the big boss called me into his office to ask me if I knew who was using his computer. Let me tell you, I was scared. I want to be a good Christian, I teach Sunday School and all, but I didn’t want to turn in my immediate boss. Thanks to your course, I used a technique from the third lesson, and was able to justify lying. I used Rahab as an example, reasoned that she lied to protect the spies in Jericho, so it must be OK to protect a spy with a lie. I lied to my boss’s boss, saved my boss, and never once felt guilty, because what I did was BIBLICAL.

Dr. Dicrous: That’s great. But why were you so interested in saving your immediate boss?

Charlotte: Because my immediate boss and I are having an affair. And, you’ll be happy to hear that I used techniques from lesson one to justify that little problem.

Dr. Dicrous: Wonderful! Well, how about you Cal? You were quite the skeptic.

Cal: Yes, I was. I felt there was no way that my problem could be justified Biblically. I just knew I would have to choose between my Christian fellowship and my sin. But thanks to you and your program I am now happily addicted to heroin, without the guilt, and still able to Pastor my Church full time.

Dr. Dicrous: Tell me about it.

Cal: For years I struggled with my habit. I felt that the Bible spoke against drug use. Then, after taking your course, I realized that anything can be justified. I saw the passage in Ephesians 6 regarding bondservants being subject to their masters, and applied that to my drug addiction. The Bible tells me to submit to my master. I am a slave to heroin, so heroin is my master. Applying that Biblical principle to my situation, I don’t have to seek help. I just need to accept myself as I am and submit to my master, as the Bible says.

Dr. Dicrous: Excellent use of lesson number two.

Cal: Well, enough of our stories. Tell us how you came up with such a brilliant system.

Dr. Dicrous: I would love to, Cal and Charlotte. One day, I was facing a problem myself. I was torn between the worldly practices of the church I pastored and the obvious principles of leadership taught by Jesus. While watching the news, a report came on about a major denomination going against long held biblical values in order to accommodate an increasingly popular social condition. As I watched the hierarchy of that denomination use scripture to condone its new position, I realized how easy it would be in my case to do the same. Then I began to study other organized religious groups and saw the same principles at work. By taking standard hermeneutical practices and using them to extremes, one could Biblically justify any practice. Why — prosperity teachers have been doing it for years, and now mainline denominations are using these methods too. Now, I have made their secrets available to you. All you have to do is order my course.

Announcer: And here is what you will receive. Seven lessons on CD or DVD:

· Lesson 1 – Finding secondary meanings in Greek and Hebrew words

· Lesson 2 – How to strictly interpret, then loosely apply the Epistles

· Lesson 3 – Turning descriptive passages into prescriptive doctrine

· Lesson 4 – Using cultural differences to nullify universal principles

· Lesson 5 – How to make eisegesis look like exegesis

· Lesson 6 – Mixing unrelated verses to change the intent

· Lesson 7 – Using the Judge-Not line of reasoning for every argument

And if you order now, you will receive Dr. Dicrous’ special Bible interpretation software. It slices, mixes, chops and twists scripture into any shape you want it to be. You get all this for the low price of $39.95.

The picture switches back to Dr. Dicrous and guests.

Dr. Dicrous: How about hearing from some other satisfied students?

Cal: That would be great Doctor.

Dr. Dicrous turns on the TV as his guests watch the screen. Three students appear on the screen, two male and one female, to give a testimonial.

1st male student: I use to think becoming a devil worshipper meant I would have to leave my Christian church. But thanks to Dr. Lou’s course, I was able to justify my divided loyalty. I always knew that scripture refers to the devil as the enemy. But then, thanks to Dr. Lou, I also saw, in Matthew 5:44 that Jesus commands us to love our enemies. So I reasoned that loving the devil was OK with the Bible. Now I can sing in the choir on Sunday morning, and go to my Black-Mass on Sunday night without guilt. Thanks to Dr. Lou, the Bible works for me.

female student: I wanted to divorce my husband so I could marry a coworker. The problem was that I had no Biblical grounds for divorce. Then I ordered MAKE THE BIBLE WORK FOR YOU. Using techniques I found in lesson six I was able to combine Matthew 5:28, where it says looking at a woman lustfully is committing adultery in the heart, and Matthew 19:9, where it implies that adultery is grounds for divorce. Knowing that, at least once, my husband looked at another woman lustfully, I was able to divorce him and not go against my Bible. Dr. Dicrous made the Bible work for me.

2nd male student: I have a problem with overeating. It is nothing severe, and everyone has problems, right? Yet many people, including my doctor, told me that I was dangerously obese and could have a heart attack any day. So I tried to diet, but that got me depressed. The only thing that got rid of my depression was eating. I would tried to read the Bible for encouragement, but the passages of scripture regarding gluttony would get me even more depressed. So I ordered Dr. Dicrous’ course. Boy, what an eye opener it was. Utilizing the methods of lesson five, I applied the principle I found in First Kings 19, verses 4 through 6. I read that when Elijah was depressed, the Lord sent an angel to him with the command, “Arise and eat.” I reasoned that if it was good enough for Elijah’s depression, it was good enough for mine. Now whenever I get depressed, I get up and eat. The depression goes away and there are no guilty feelings to deal with, because I made the Bible work for me.

The picture switches back to Dr. Dicrous and guests.

Dr. Dicrous: Well, those were amazing testimonies, as were yours, Cal and Charlotte. And thank you for joining me.

Both Cal and Charlotte: It was our pleasure.

Scene switches to same pictures and music as in the show’s opening. Announcer’s voice is heard.

Announcer: This opportunity will not last long. Please call the number at the bottom of the screen. You only have sixty seconds left. Until next time, goodbye, and good Biblical living.

Scene fades as the music ends.

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Are You Living In Rebellion? Friday, Oct 2 2009 

As stated in the previous post, I still have many questions regarding God’s delegation of authority, but I have arrived at one firm conclusion:

Jesus is God’s delegated authority for the church, and all of its members have equal access to him. There is no hierarchy of revelation. There is no hierarchy of leadership. There is no hierarchy of authority. We are all called to submit to him, and to one another. (Eph.5:21) There are different functions and gifts within the body of Christ, but only one head.

However, just as questions beget answers, answers beget other questions. How do we practically function in our day-to-day life submitting to one another? What does it look like? How does submitting to one another correspond with the passage of Hebrews 13:17 which admonishes us to obey our leaders and submit to them? If there is no hierarchy of leadership, then who are the leaders we are encouraged to obey? How do we identify them within the family of God?

Let me begin by addressing the latter questions. First, how does submitting to one another correspond with Hebrews 13:17? Well, I believe the answer greatly depends on the way the passage is viewed. If interpreted as a command to practice strict adherence to positions of authority within an institutional church, it seems to contradict the idea of mutual submission. If, on the other hand, it’s understood as an exhortation to be persuaded by leaders of a community, then the passage fits mutual submission like an indispensable piece of large puzzle. Frank Viola writes:

The word translated “obey” in Hebrews 13:17 is not the garden variety Greek word (hupakouo) that’s usually employed in the New Testament for obedience. Rather, it’s the word peitho. Peitho means to persuade or to win over (297).

Look at a previous passage of encouragement from the same chapter of Hebrews:

Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. (Hebrews 13:7 NIV)

The Hebrews 13:7 passage tells us to “consider” and “imitate” our leaders. This seems to be more in line with a “be persuaded by” concept than a “mindlessly obey” notion. It also suggests that one of the qualities of a leader is to speak the word of God. If we believe we are members of a larger community (the church), and our desire is to submit to the authority of God through Jesus, and we recognize that all of the members of that community have equal access to God, then imitating those who display leadership qualities, and allowing ourselves to be persuaded by the word of God spoken by them, seems to be a natural way to fulfill that desire.

So who are the leaders, and what are those leadership qualities by which they can be identified?  I believe the answer, in part, was given when Jesus addressed the question of hierarchical authority in the passage below:

Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant …” (Mt.20: 25-26 NIV)

Here lies the paradox of kingdom leadership. Jesus says, in contrast to the way the Gentile world operates, true greatness is accomplished by being a servant. The very opposite of being the highest in rank is what makes you the highest in rank. To identify true leaders, look for those who are willingly submitting to, and serving everyone else. Look for servants.

Since servants are under their master’s authority, we could push the above stated principle to its logical extreme and conclude that to be in authority you must be under everyone else’s authority. Since a true leader is servant to all, then we should eagerly desire to submit to those who desire to submit to us. By doing so, we all submit to Christ. That is one reason why the “body” metaphor for the church (I Cor.12) is such a powerful one. Each member of the body is directly under the authority of the head, just as every member of the church is directly under the authority of Christ. Yet, each member of the body submits to each other member in order to fully obey commands from the head. Not submitting to one another is not submitting to Christ.

Watchman Nee puts it this way:

Yet, right here lies the common fault of God’s children. We need to recognize in other members the authority of the Head (80).

How often do we fail to recognize the authority in each other? The problem with hierarchical authority structures and positional authority figures is that they lack the practice of mutual submission. For example, if I believe that those who rank under me should submit to me, and that I should submit only to those who rank above me, then I will not practice submission to those who I believe rank under me. I become concerned with how to prove, exhibit, and exercise my authority over others. I teach others that it is rebellious to disobey my authority, just as it would be rebellious for me to disobey the authority above me. I practice control and teach dependence. I have no desire to seek the permission or advice of those under me; I only seek their approval, for approval strengthens my authority.

As well, many Christian communities often fail to acknowledge the authority of those in other Christian communities. It always amazes me when an organized church that stresses submission to authority chooses to totally ignore other churches in the same area. If there is one Christ then there is only one body. To ignore any member of that body is to miss the full abundance of Christ.

Watchman Nee goes on to say:

We ought not refuse the function of any member. If the foot should reject the hand, it is the same as rejecting the Head. But if we accept the authority of a member, it is the same as accepting the authority of the Head. By way of fellowship all other members can be my authority (80).

If we’re not willing to submit to each other, we’re not willing to submit to Christ; and if we are not willing to submit to Christ, we are living in rebellion.

So how do we practically function in our day-to-day life submitting to one another? What does it look like? I believe it looks like a body. All members receive instruction from the head and submit to it; but in so doing, it is essential for all members to equally submit to one another. There will be roles and gifts of leadership displayed.  The eyes may take the lead in one situation with the rest of the body responding in submission to what to what the eyes have seen.  Each member receives instruction directly from the brain regarding the specific role to be played in response to what the eyes have seen. At the same time, the eyes equally submit to all other members in similar fashion.

The same is with the body of Christ. Some with specific roles and gifts of leadership will take the lead, and we should recognize this and submit to their leadership. At the same time, those in leadership are constantly seeking to serve and submit to the rest of the body. All of the members are constantly striving to promote, serve, support, and submit to one another, while receiving instruction directly from the head, who is Christ. It is not the individual member to whom we are ultimately submitting, but Christ in that member.

Again I’ll say that I still have many questions regarding submission to God’s delegated authority, but of this I’m sure. If we are not striving to submit to one another, we are living in rebellion to God.

Sources Cited:

Viola, Frank. REIMAGINING CHURCH: PURSUING THE DREAM OF ORGANIC CHRISTIANITY. Colorado Springs: David C. Cook, 2008.

Nee, Watchman. SPIRITUAL AUTHORITY. New York: Christian Fellowship Publishers, 1972.