Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Adapting the Bible to Fit our Taste: What do you think?

I ran across this video, which is new to me. In it someone called the "One Minute Apologist" lays out a "defense" for the Bible. Using a series of cliches, he outlines why the difficult sections of scripture are really not all that difficult and the problem is not the Bible but us.

I have a number of thoughts about this presentation, and I fear I may have already tipped my hand a bit. But I am curious what you think about his presentation.

By the way, it takes the One Minute Apologist" two minutes to unpack his argument.

HT: Bible Reading Project


  1. "One Minute Apologist"- oh dear. It's incredible that he could elucidate in one minute (well, two) what scholars and theologians haven't been able to grasp fully in two thousand plus years. He must be really smart.

    It's like preaching meets politics. Honestly, as I listen to this, it sounds a bit abusive; isn't a document so important, so crucial to so many people, worthy of debate? Why should we assume that bringing struggles and questions to the Bible makes us depraved?

    The speaker argues that we shouldn't try to fit the Bible to our own preferences; but the very format of this (2 minute apologist) attempts to do just that. It's like bad exegesis meets the 24 hour news channel soundbite. Ugh. Okay, you've convinced me. The world still needs Bible scholars. Thank you.

  2. Hmmm. I just wrote a post with this video linking to your blog a few times...

    A few things he says grind my gears a little, but really there isn't enough context for me to strongly disagree. As you said, there are a lot of cliches here and perhaps a pompous attitude, but is there really a statement you can nail down that you absolutely disagree with? This perspective may come from the opposite side of the coin from scholars who seek to understand the Bible in its context and then faithfully apply it to ours, but a reminder that God's Word should take precedence over our desires is not a bad thing.

    Irritating polemics (and I was irritated the first time I saw it even though I posted it) can be effective at provoking thought.

    Blessings to you. I really enjoy and value your blog.

  3. Well, there goes 2 minutes I'll never get back.
    Amazing how someone can spend any time at all at say absolutely nothing.

    1. Mike,

      Perhaps this blog has become the Grim Reaper of time? I have just taken 2 minutes of your life . . . Princes Bride.

  4. Jonathan,

    Thanks, I got the video from you. I did post a link to your site for it.

    I agree that it can be thought provoking, but I am not sure that it is really all that helpful. His overarching themes seems to be the problem is not the Bible, but us. I am not sure that saying that is anymore helpful than saying we are the problem. I think that while these type of hard hitting, provocative clips certainly get our attention, they don't really go any further than that. It takes, as you know, hard, serious work to unpack the meaning of the Bible and this type of approach trivializes it and seems to suggest that the Bible is 99.9% clear. The problem is us and we need to change. Yet, I would like to ask him some questions about things like that aren't all the clear and see if the problem is perhaps not us.

    1. Fair enough, I understand your dispute with the overall statement. I debated posting it. Perhaps I should have with a caveat. This was the kind of talk that was actually useful to me as a new believer and has become more tiresome as I matured in Christ.

    2. BTW Thanks for the link. Seeing as you hate the video it might not be the best recommendation, lol.

    3. Jonathan,

      I could put a disclaimer. :) I always try to give credit for where I got stuff. I by means was suggesting that you were for or against the video. I am familiar enough with your thought stream to know you are a good thinker who recognizes that oversimplifying topics is not going to make it easier.

      Hate it? Nah, just disappointed.

  5. He could have represented himself better, using less cliche language, and said the same thing - he could have benefitted from a more aggressive editor, and one sentence - "I could talk about this subject for a year and not be finished." Reading the Bible brings the reader face to face with more than historical facts (things that happened long ago to other people.) It can have a present impact on our personal faith. It is not automatic, this reading of the Living Word, it is not always easily understood. Yet, some of it is very clear, some of it is very poetic, some of it is very appplicable, some of it is not hidden at all. Much of it leads the reader, intentionally, to THINK. Jesus' parables always bring an element of exaggerated absurdity - and He rarely (if ever) neatly explained them. The present listeners (and we as modern readers) are frequently provided the open-ended conclusion, "So what are you gonna do about it?" Instead of a slick presentation about a 1 minute apologist, this Dr. could devote himself to this subject for the remainder of his active vocational career, similar to Dr. Karl Haas and Adventures in Good Music. In 1970, Dr. Hass, a musicologist/pianist/conductor, began a radio show, for 26 minutes at a time, would address one subject within this theme of learning good music. Sometimes it was the topic of the crescendo, or staccato. Sometimes the impact of the aria, or the presence of I-IV-ii-vi-V7-I development. Modern music adapted from King Henry VIII. Why the conductor uses a baton. I distinctly remember many musical details, and his teaching, because he concentrated on a small thing within a big thing. This man has not defended the Bible in a minute, but the subject is crucial - the Bible is not intended to be made palatable so we can digest it better or simpler. Its make legible so we can interact with the Living, Breathing Word of God.

  6. I'm not even sure where to start! I guess I'll highlight just two points.

    First, it is naive and simplistic to assert that everything that does not "sit well with us", in Scripture, is a sign that "we are the problem." This position is naive for many reasons,but I think one example will suffice. For many people, when they read the Scriptures they become uncomfortable when it admonishes slaves to endure their suffering as their way of identifying with Christ (Titus 2:9). There are few today who would argue that this admonition is not problematic. It seems, to me, that part of our problem with understanding is that we make too much of the universal nature of Scripture. Maybe what we are really guilty of is overextending our theology of Scripture. This of course does not mean that Scripture is unimportant, but rather it means that we often misunderstand the role it should play.

    Second, this video overlooks the contextual nature of Scripture. Doctrines of sin, repentance,judgment wrath, and hell, are intimately connected to the contexts they were written. So what happens when we, in another context, read the Scriptures and find ourselves completely disoriented? While we must ask how this disorientation confronts our contemporary understanding, we must also struggle to find the analogous interpretation that takes our context, and the the contexts of our ancient narrative, seriously. But to maintain that this dynamic is a refusal, on the part of the reader, to submit to God's ways, is a highly naive affirmation.

    There is so much more to say, but this will have do :-)

  7. He's most likely not speaking to the academic scholars of the NT when making a 2-minute video clip that is probably helpful for the average pew-sitter. The catchy graphics, young vibes, and "cliche" language that he uses might not resonate with some "critics" but I think it resonates with his audience and their needs.

    If you watch other videos via YouTube, he asks real questions that his parishioners are struggling with and responds to them without a 300 page dissertation, but a couple paragraphs. You can debate if his responses are legitimate or truth-bearing, but to claim that he is wrong because he did not make an exhaustive list dissecting Biblical hermaneutics is silly.

    1. Josh,

      What are the needs of his audience is what I find myself wondering. Is telling them that the problem is them, not the Bible (both of which I think are not real choices in the matter) a helpful approach? Does it encourage people to think and dig deeper?

      I do find your comments about NT scholars and 300 page dissertations curious. I don't fault him for trying to make things manageable for the "average pew-sitter" and I don't fault him for not being an NT scholar. But I do take issue with him oversimplifying the matter. How is this helping people in the pew to grow, to be challenged, to learn to think for themselves?

    2. In regards to my comment on scholars and dissertations - I was somewhat rebuking this thought from a post above:

      --- ("One Minute Apologist"- oh dear. It's incredible that he could elucidate in one minute (well, two) what scholars and theologians haven't been able to grasp fully in two thousand plus years. He must be really smart.) ---

      As Christians we are very quick to point out the flaws of others (or their works) in ministry. Yes, you may disagree with some of the content of his video, but to say you dislike it because he did not exhaustively respond to the question with deep theology, history, and exegesis is absurd. Who would or could do that? Could you imagine an online exhaustive answer to the questions that he raises? The bigger picture for me is that he is a pastor that desires to provide quick insights for practical questions (which means that he doesn't provide the deepest answers), but they provide substance or a starting point for people in his congregation.

      I am challenged by your reminder to teach our congregations to think deeper, utilize history, strive to ask tough questions, etc. Thank you for that thought.

  8. Here's the problem with this video from another perspective (mine is Lutheran and pastoral, by the way):

    To say that the difficulties I have coming to grips with the hard portions of the Bible are all on me and none on God is all true, and all Law in its wider sense (in this sense the Law shows us our deep, inherent sinfulness). But if the preaching of the Law seems to direct me to "suck it up" it has still given me no true comfort. And if the preaching of the Law seems to leave me in despair without a solution, then who can blame me for living in hopelessness? As Paul would then say, "Who can deliver me from this body of death?" And as I look out at my congregation on a Sunday morning, the last thing I am called to do as their pastor is to send them home in despair!

    The solution, the answer, and the part that this video leaves out (and what makes it so dangerous!) is, of course, Jesus! (That's the Gospel, by the way - the message that points all us despairing sinners to the only solution to our problem). Please recall that "in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son" (Hebrews) and that "I have written these things so that by believing you may have life in His Name" (John). We don't have life by understanding, we have life by Jesus. We don't have life by comprehending Scripture, we have life by believing in Jesus. The point of Scripture is not to uncover how wretched I am and leave me quivering and naked by the side of the road; the point of Scripture is to show me that when that happens there is a Good Shepherd who comes to me and takes me up in His arms without question or condemnation and carries me into His mercy.

    And my calling as a (Lutheran) pastor is to proclaim the Gospel in such a way that when someone is overwhelmed by the realization of their desperate sinfulness and the overpowering holiness of God, that I have the privilege and joy of saying to them "come with me to Jesus, who has invited all who are weary and heavy laden to come to Him and let Him give you rest."

  9. I did like the book recommendation at the end.

  10. The so-called "One-Minute" Apologist lasts 2 minutes and 13 seconds. Fail.