Thinking Out Loud

November 24, 2013

Rob Bell on Jonah and the Great Big Fish

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:58 am

Rob Bell has started a series on his blog robbell.com titled “What Is the Bible?” (Not to be confused with Phil Vischer’s excellent DVD series for kids, “What’s In The Bible?”)  As I write this, Rob has 14 chapters posted, and I do admit to having no idea where he’s going and what he’s going to say next. Are we getting a preview of a future book manuscript? If so, I’m saving the chapters just in case.

In parts 3 and 4, he looks at the Jonah story. Here’s a brief excerpt from part four:

Rob Bell 5…What do I think? I don’t think it matters what you believe about a man being swallowed by a fish.

If you don’t believe it literally happened, that’s fine. Lots of people of faith over the years have read this story as a parable about national forgiveness. They point to many aspects of the surreal nature of the story as simply great storytelling because the author has a larger point, one about the Israelites and the Assyrians and God’s call to be a light to everyone, especially your enemies.

Right on. Well said.
Just one problem. Some deny the swallowed-by-a-fish part not from a literary perspective, but on the basis of those things just don’t happen. Which raises a number of questions: What’s the criteria for the denial? Do we only affirm things that can be proven in a lab? Do we only believe things we have empirical evidence for? Do we believe or not believe something happened based on…whether we believe that things like that happen or not? (That was an awkward sentence. Intentionally.) Can we only affirm things that make sense to us? Are we closed to everything that we can’t explain?

If we reject all miraculous elements of all stories because we have made up our mind ahead of time that such things simply aren’t possible, we run the risk of shrinking the world down to what we can comprehend. And what fun is that?

That said, there are others who say, Of course he was swallowed a fish, that’s what the story says happened!

Fine.
Just one problem. It’s possible to affirm the literal fact of a man being swallowed by a fish, making that the crux of the story in such a way that you defend that, believe that, argue about that-and in spending your energies on the defend-the-fish-part miss the point of the story, the point about allowing God’s redeeming love to flow through us with such power and grace that we are able to love and bless even our worst enemies…

…continue reading here

December 16, 2010

Why People Love to Argue Noah, Jonah and Adam

Okay, I’ll say it.

While I have no reason to doubt the Biblical accounts I learned as a child, my faith journey is not contingent on whether David killed a giant with a slingshot (I think he did) or Joshua blew a trumpet and and the walls of Jericho fell (I think he did and they did) or whether Jesus put mud in a man’s eyes and then he could see (which I not only think he did, but think that belief on that one becomes a bit more central.)

But there are many people who love to argue these points.   The reason is simple:

  • If it should turn out that the Bible narrative is true, then that would make the Bible authoritative in other areas of life.
  • If the Bible is authoritative in all that it says, then that would require some kind of response from its hearers/readers.
  • That response would require a change in lifestyle; a change in priorities.
  • Many people, simply don’t want to make those changes.

So it’s easier for them to look at you and say, “You don’t really believe that Joshua prayed and God halted the earth’s rotation, resulting in more than 36 continuous hours of daylight, do you?”   A discussion that’s motivated more by the love of sin and not having to deal with accountability than it is with science.

And if you’re honest, you’ll probably say that while you do believe that God can (and did) cause the sun to stand still, that’s not what your faith journey, your God’s-love-receiving,  your Christ-following, your Spirit-indwelling, etc., is all about.

Because let’s face it:  While the children’s department of Christian bookstores is packed with stories about Jesus feeding 5,000 men or walking on water, Elijah being fed by ravens, and Daniel’s lack of appetizing characteristics to the large felines; the adult Christian living section of the same bookstore is relatively sparse on those particular narratives.

So what’s the deal?   Maybe, just maybe…

The woman who says, “You don’t really believe that a guy named Jonah lived inside a whale — sorry, ‘large fish’ — for three days do you?” is actually carrying on an illicit affair with a guy in the warehouse.   If the Bible is true in its narratives, it means it is reliable in everything, and that would require a response and a change in lifestyle.

The guy who says, “You don’t really believe that Noah and all those animals lived on board a yacht — sorry, ‘large boat’ — for a full year do you? is actually transferring money from an advertising account to a bogus consulting company which is actually a personal bank account.  If the Bible is true in its narratives, it means it is reliable in everything, and that would require a response and a change in lifestyle.

The woman who says, “You don’t really believe that stuff about God creating Adam and then taking one of his bones — sorry, ‘large rib’ — to create a woman do you? is actually getting her son to purchase ecstasy for her from a dealer in his high school.  If the Bible is true in its narratives, it means it is reliable in everything, and that would require a response and a change in lifestyle.

For some of us, here’s the 411:

  • The Bible is authoritative and reliable in what it says; there’s no picking and choosing; you either trust the book or you don’t.
  • We have heard and listened and chosen to respond to God’s offer of love and forgiveness, of which whales, arks and Adam’s ribs is but a small part — the realm of the miraculous — in a much, much larger ‘love letter’ to His creation.
  • This has changed our perspective, our worldview, our priorities and values; a change that can be seen by people who knew us before vs. after or know how we live in contrast to the larger society around us.
  • While we’re far from perfect, we think we’ve got the hottest news on the rack and want you to share in both what we’ve learned and the grace we’ve received.

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