What I Don’t Understand about the Bible

I recently had lunch with a good friend. Although we see one another at church frequently, rarely do we get to sit down together and actually talk. I imagine most of you can relate to that regarding someone.

As we discussed a variety of topics–marriage, work, finances, cars–we just naturally started talking about church and the various opinions people–even other Christians–have about the Bible.

I explained that my well-educated pastor father had been pretty liberal by our church’s standards, even though at one point years ago he had served for a while as its interim pastor. I hasten to add that of the number of people there who still speak to me lovingly of “Pastor Ben,” no one has ever complained to me about his theology. My parents believed strongly in the Baptist concept of “priesthood of the Believer”; every Christian  should be free to interpret the Bible in whatever way God leads.

So, for example, if I choose to go along with my parents’ beliefs that the seven days of Creation were seven periods of time rather than literal twenty-four hour days, I can do that without fear of criticism.

We also discussed things like the impossibility of ever having a completely accurate translation of the Bible, because that would necessitate an indisputably accurate translation of each word within both the current and the overall context. And we agreed that–although God inspired every word in the Bible–that doesn’t mean He dictated it to the person who wrote it down. If that had happened, why wouldn’t the whole Bible be written in one single, unmistakable style? The very fact that it had so many authors over such a long period of time and yet still tells one unified story goes far beyond amazing.

My friend told me about some of the Bible-related things he’s interested in researching, and I think that’s great. He’s a highly intelligent man, and he won’t chase a rabbit that scrambles away in the least from what the Bible clearly says.

But I couldn’t keep from thinking about a Friday night Bible study I used to attend. We went through whatever passage we were studying that night verse by verse, word by word, almost letter by letter. Our leader was very good, but the process was tedious. It was during those Friday nights that I reached a significant conclusion.

I don’t understand everything about the Bible and I never will. (Neither will anyone else.) But I believe it with all my heart. At the same time, I already understand how to live the Christian life God wants me to live. My failures as a Christian aren’t the result of my failure to understand more, but my failure to apply what I already understand to my daily life.

More power to those who feel called to study and to learn.

Me, I’ll just keep praying for God to help me become more loving and more self-sacrificing. And less critical and less sure of myself. If God wants me to understand a particular part of the Bible I’m currently fuzzy about, I believe He’ll lead me to it. And He’ll help me to see how understanding it will help me to live a more Christlike life.

What about you? Are you a Bible reader? Are you a Bible student? Do you think there’s such a thing as too much learning when it comes to the Bible? How about leaving a comment?

NOTE: Various people have complained about not being able to find or leave comments. Go all the way to the bottom of this post, beneath my “Best regards, Roger.” On the very bottom line of that last section just above the previous post you’ll see “Leave a Comment” if yours will be the first or “X Comments,” where  X denotes the number of existing comments.

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I’ll be back again on Wednesday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger

Tribute to a Friend

For almost all of my adult life, my best friends have always been women, and my wife is my best friend of all time.

But during my mid-twenties, I had a couple of special male friends, too. And one of those was Morgan Dilver.

Morgan was a very dark black man who specialized in making people laugh. I’ll never forget this tale.

A drunk walked up to him on the street one day.  “Are you a Negro?”  (Yes, that’s the word he used.)

Morgan rolled his eyes as only he could do and said, “No, I’m from Mexico.”

The drunk looked at him kind of funny. “I’ve never met anyone from Mexico before.”

Morgan rolled his eyes again. “Well, this is what we look like.”

Morgan was a teacher—or was he a counselor? It’s been a very long time. *sigh* But he also served as the girls’ cheering squad coach at the local high school. And once he demonstrated to me the cheer he would have taught his girls if he’d had a mute cheering squad. Too funny to attempt to describe here.

We used to take an occasional Saturday day trip to Ocean City, Maryland—we drove the sixty miles in his big white car–“The Ghost.” We had the most fun laughing at the reactions of people who stared at him in disbelief when he sat there on the blanket slathering on an overabundance of suntan lotion.

In 1972 I wrote a rock opera which a cast of fifty or sixty people participated in our single performance of. Morgan soloed as John the Baptist. The Bible says this about John’s food and apparel: “John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey.” Morgan borrowed some sort of camel-colored fur from his mother for the occasion.

Hmm. Maybe not quite biblical, but 100% Morgan.

When my first wife and I were getting married—nine hundred miles from my home in Maryland—Morgan and Bob, another good friend, drove through a snow storm to be groomsmen in the wedding. We weren’t sure how people would react to our having a black participant, but we loved Morgan for who he was. If anyone had an issue with his race, that was their problem.

Morgan won folks over in typical style. Especially my grandmother-in-law to be.

Once I was married, Morgan didn’t play as important a role in my life as he’d done previously, and we lost touch with him completely after moving to Richmond in 1984.

I’m not even sure how or when we found out that he’d died—he wouldn’t have been much over forty if he was even that old—but I still miss him.

Lord, I know he’s keeping You laughing up there in Heaven, and I can hardly wait to catch up on all of the stories I’ve missed or forgotten about.

P.S. I regret not having any pictures of Morgan to include with this post.

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If you have memories of a special friend, won’t you share them with a comment?

I’ll be back again on Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, just go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

By the way, “On Aging Gracelessly” isn’t my only blog. I use “As I Come Singing”check it out here—to post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years. Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. Check here to see the list.

Best regards,
Roger

How Honest Is “Too Honest”?

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After sixty-seven years of life, I’m just as convinced as ever that honesty is the best policy. But how much is enough–and how much is too much?

Case in point. I have a good friend who’s about seven years younger than me. He is really deep into theological studies and even attended two different seminaries in his younger days—without getting a degree.

He has a pet belief that everything else revolves around—or so it seems. I won’t try to explain it; I barely understand it. I’m not sure I agree with it, but I don’t consider it a vital issue. Certainly not the kind of thing that determines whether a person is truly a Christian.

He thinks it’s important, though. In fact, he wrote a book about it. I read parts of the manuscript, but just couldn’t get into it. Speaking as an English major who overcame that fact to become a published author, I clearly understand why no publishers have taken an interest in it.

The number of potential readers is very small. Not that many people will find it an interesting subject, much less a vital one. My friend doesn’t have a platform from which to “sell books at the back of the room.”

Unfortunately, serious theologians would probably view this manuscript as the work of an amateur. While I think that would be unfair, I couldn’t blame them.

And the problem I’m most hesitant to bring up is this: No matter how smart my friend is—no matter how many years of thought and prayer he’s invested in this manuscript—the writing isn’t top notch. And publishers won’t settle for anything less.

I’m taking a chance that he’ll never see this post. I doubt that he follows my blog.

So what’s my honesty problem?

He told me a couple of days ago that he plans to self-publish his manuscript.

Don’t get me wrong. A number of really good writers are turning to self-publishing now. But I know from my own experience with self-publishing that it’s apt to be a good way to lose money. Unless an author can sell his books—unless he’s willing and able to actively market them—he’s likely to end up with a box or two (or more) of books that do little more than prove he wrote a book.

I think my friend deserves to see his book in print. He needs that sense of fulfillment. I’ve committed to buying a copy. I don’t know how many people follow his blog or read those numerous messages he forwards, but some of them will buy copies, too. Nonetheless, I don’t see how he can hope to recoup his investment.

I attended a class about the ins and outs of self-publishing–it’s often referred to now as indie-publishing–some years ago. One thing that’s stuck in my head ever since is this: Don’t spend money you can’t afford to lose.

And He can’t afford to lose it. Not the first penny.

I love my friend. Tell me, please. How can I help him without bursting his bubble?

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I’ll be back again on Wednesday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, just go to the top right of this page where it says, “Follow Blog via Email.”

By the way, “On Aging Gracelessly” isn’t my only blog. I use “As I Come Singing” to post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years. Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. Check here to see the list.

Because I’ve used up all of my songs, I revise and repost a previous post each Wednesday. If you’re interested, please check that blog out here.

Best regards,
Roger