A Year of Living Biblically - II

I'm just beginning the fourth month of Jacob's year of living biblically. I'm still finding it quite entertaining, yet thought-provoking. He admits that another part of his reason for the experiment is to show how silly it is to take everything in the Bible literally. Even if you consider yourself a biblical literalist, you're not. Trust me, there are plenty of things in the Bible that you're not doing that the Bible tells you to do. Even if you say Christ's sacrifice fulfills all the Hebrew Laws, there are plenty of commands in the New Testament you're not following literally (do you greet everyone with a holy kiss?).

I consider myself to be fairly orthodox in my theology (though I believe that if we follow Jesus' teaching that we'll end up being fairly unorthodox in traditional religion). I do treat many events in the Bible as history (with the acknowledgment that history is always told from a certain point of view). I tend to take a good chunk of commandments seriously (and literally), though I also know there is plenty of symbolism, allegory and analogy in the Bible. I do believe the spirit of the Law is more important than the letter (though I believe most of us--myself included--fail at both ends. We are sinners after all).

Jacobs writes about following Ecclesiastes''s admonition to "always wear white." Though people in New York City (where drab browns, blacks and navys are the norm) are constantly leering at him, Jacobs finds himself feeling happier, more spiritual. He notes that the outer influences the inner. The things he does shapes his feelings. In this case bright, pure clothes make him feel happier and more spiritual.

At the same time, Jacobs often notes how he's not there. All of his obeying hasn't "converted" him to anything. He's hoping that the more he does, the more spiritual he'll become. There is truth to that . . . sometimes our faith is bolstered by our actions, our religious routines. Sometimes our habits carry us through. But usually the faith has to be in place first.

Several years ago during a trip Beth and I were listening to a book on tape about a woman who spent a year with the Amish to learn from them. It was a fascinating look at Amish life, but at the end she leaves with little transformation in her life. I believe that her time with the Amish didn't really change her because she never embraced the reason behind the Amish beliefs: chiefly God. What the Amish do doesn't make sense if God is not in the equation.

Likewise, the Law doesn't really make sense if you don't also seriously investigate who the God is behind the Laws. It's one thing to read about Him. It's another to rigorously learn who He is.


Mid Stutsman said...

It's all in the relationship with Him, isn't it!!??!!

Ariah said...

Interesting point. I definitely agree in some ways with your point at the end, that it won't make sense if you don't understand the reason behind the beliefs.
But to push back a little. Isn't that a bit odd? Like, we do bizarre and crazy things, and it won't make any sense to you unless you buy in fully to our way of thinking.
I would expect the lifestyle, 'law' to be compelling evidence of the beliefs.

Does that make sense?

Rev. Dave said...

Mid - Thanks for stopping by and check this out.

Ariah - Paul talks in Galatians, if I remember correctly about how the Law (Torah) should lead us to faith--it's there as a "pedagogue" (tutor for lack of a better word) to train us, educate us and bring us to a point where we can follow Jesus (talking to a 1st century Jewish audience). While we may live the Law without the faith, and we may have the faith without living the Law, neither come to fruition if they don't exist together (TRUE faith with deeds). Maybe that didn't really address what you were saying. Let me know if not.

Ariah said...


Sorry, took me a while to check back on this post. I think what your referring to makes some sense, but it's the kind of logic I'd have a hard time following.

Would you feel comfortable with the argument from someone of a different faith? "These are bizarre rules we follow, but unless you believe what we believe, your not going to understand." You could apply that to so many things, things I'd consider bizzare, others immoral or oppressive.

It's one thing when you do some bizarre things and then a miracle happens (the walls falling in Jericho), that's pretty good evidence. But, odd laws all on their own, well, that seems odd to me.