Yesterday, a friend of mine asked me a question at church. She had been given a pamphlet published by the Cumberland Presbyterian Church in America denomination. She asked me if I knew anything about the church. She and I both had assumed it was just one church. It's actually not, it's a denomination. A century ago it was larger than the PC(USA) denomination actually. So, I started to try and figure out what they believed.
It might seem strange that I would do this, but I've discovered over the past few years that it matters who publishes a book--especially it is the publisher from a denomination. What the denomination believes shapes what they will publish. Many denominations take a very liberal view of scripture and that's going to be reflected in how the authors they publish interpret scripture--whether they take the whole Word to be the inerrant Word of God, whether they believe that the Truth can be found solely in God's Word or also in historical and current experience of life, who's words they believe are on par with the books of the Bible, what they believe is required for salvation...
What I'm realizing more and more is that the nuances of how an author interprets scripture can twist how It is interpreted. I think we have to be really careful about what we read and chew on.
I've also been facing this in a secular book I have to read. I've been having a hard time with the poetry book I have to read for my college class. The book is all about how to teach poetry to children. Over and over, the book refers to how children can find "the truth" inside themselves through poetry. Honestly, it all sounds very nice and even okay. I'm sure many people would say I'm being picky. The problem I'm having is that I'm starting to see this all the time in books that I read for children--the authors are communicating the message to children that the truth and meaning of life can be found in their own hearts--without God being a part of the picture.
I feel that way about how some books talk about God. The focus is on what people want to hear, not on what they don't. I had a disconcerting conversation on Friday about submission with a gal who is a pastor of a church with her husband. As I mentioned submission, she kept coming back to how we need to submit to God first and if the husband is loving his wife as Christ loves his church, then there's nothing to worry about when it comes to submission. I tried to come back and point out that the other verses don't negate the importance of a wife submitting to her husband. But, she kept adamantly going back to the other. I let it go. I realized that she and I saw scripture differently. Her view is a prevalent one that I hear from the Christian media a lot and in churches we've attended over the years. Submission is either avoided or it's addressed in the context of "mutual submission". Over the past 10 years, I've become very convicted that it is is in the Word and that it is my rebellious heart that makes me want to avoid it. Cindy Easley has a great chapter on why submission is so hard at the beginning of her book Dancing With the One You Love: Submission in the Real World. It is the first book on this issue that I feel comfortable recommending. I also recently ordered a Bible study by Cynthia Heald that addresses submission that I'm looking forward to reading.
Submission is one of the issues that I see differs a lot among publishers and the studies/books they publish. Another is the role of women in the church and family. Another is the belief of who they think should be pastors and elders in churches. These issues are all rooted in how one interprets scripture--whether one takes the whole or parts. I did inquire of a woman pastor once how she interpreted scripture. She explained that she takes the parts that are encouraging to her--the culturally relevant portions--and not the parts that aren't. Her comments to me reinforced to me why I think we have to be careful about what we read, because the reasoning is often very smooth and looks, tastes, sounds, and feels like the real thing--except it's not. The Truth is in God's Word.
Please forgive the jumping around of this entry. I'm realizing that is just how I feel this morning and that I need to get going... kids to wake up, school to do, lessons to plan, ducts being cleaned this afternoon, a phone call appointment... I better get going!