Monday, January 21, 2008

The Bible is Like...(2)

Abba Ah Beng’s ‘durian’ theology may sound strange to us but it does encapsulate certain truths about the Bible. To some people, the Bible is like a thorny hard durian. It is difficult to hold. The thorns may cause pain by scratches and skin punctures. Thus the Bible appears as an obstacle to many who seek the Truth. Some will spent their lives studying the exterior of the Bible becoming expert without tasting the succulent flesh within. As all durian lovers will know, there are certain ways to open the fruit without causing themselves bodily harm. By inserting a screwdriver or a blade into a certain spot and twisting it, the durian will split easily into two halves. Similarly to get to the truth in the Bible requires certain tools and know-how. The Holy Spirit, a willingness to seek the truth, and a working knowledge of the language are primary requirements to split the hard shell of the Bible. Without the Holy Spirit to open our spirit eyes, the durian will remain a fruit.

The Bible contains many teachings. However, not all teachings contain the same weightage. Knowing about God is obviously more important than knowing how many meters make a cubit. The teachings of the Bible can be broadly divided into two groups; one which consists of teachings of core truths and are non-negotiable. These truths are often codified as in the Nicene Creed or in the Westminster Larger Catechism. Some examples are God the creator, the Trinity, Biblical inerrancy, and the redemptive mission of God. These truths stand outside of culture, time and space. The other group are the negotiable teachings. These teachings are to be interpreted in the context of the culture, time and space of the learners (hence negotiable). They have to be adapted by each generation of Christians to the era they exist in. Examples are whether we should have our worship service on Saturday or Sunday, or what type of music shall we play during our worship service, or should we serve grape water or wine during Holy Communion?

While it is easy to say that there are two groups; the non-negotiable and negotiable teachings, sometimes it is difficult to decide into which category a certain teaching belongs. One such example is that whether baptism should be done by sprinkling or immersion in water? While at first glance it may seem obvious, yet proponents for each mode of baptism will be able find enough verses to support their stand. What shall we do in such case? I believe then that it is time for us to stop fighting, and believe that our God is large enough for both positions. Why must everything be either/or? Why not either/and? One of the reasons why the church is so weak is because we are so fragmented. We spent most of our time and energy fighting over the non-essentials (negotiable) while neglecting the essentials (non-negotiable). We will be so much stronger if we focus only on the essentials of our faith.

Reflection Questions
1. How do we discern which Biblical teachings are non-negotiable, and which negotiable?
2. Why do you think Christians spend so much time fighting each other about Biblical negotiable teachings?
3. What steps will you take to extend love in a disagreement over a negotiable Biblical teaching?

Dear Lord,
Thank you for giving us the Bible as our guide and as our light. Thank you for your Holy Spirit who opens our spiritual eyes to your Truth. Forgive us, Lord, for in our limited understanding and sinful nature, we pervert your truths. Teach us Lord to discern which are the non-negotiable, essential parts of your Truth and help us to incorporate them in our lives. Help us to discern which are the culture-bound negotiable parts of your Teachings, so that we may adapt them to our daily lives. Have mercy upon us.


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