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Shadows of Divine Things

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Location: Texas, United States

This site is devoted to theological and philosophical investigations of the spiritual meanings of life, current events, music, spiritual growth, nature, and learning to be attuned to listening to the 'language of God.' The name of this blog comes from one of Jonathan Edwards's journals which he called 'Shadows of Divine Things,' and later renamed 'Images of Divine Things.' As a Christian I am continously on a spiritual journey to grow more into the image of Christ, to understand what it means to be crucified with Christ. To seek the truths of the Christian Faith is of upmost importance, and to know that any truths that are found outside of Christianity are present there because they ultimately point to God. I have an M.A. in theology and apologetics and I completed one year of graduate studies in Philosophy at Marquette University.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

The Great Instruction Manual

I was in a discussion at work the other day. The topic was religious, and someone during the discussion spoke up and declared, “Well, you see, I think the bible is an instruction guide for our lives.” While this was not the first time I had ever heard anyone make this declaration, this was the first time it really irked me. I disagree with this assessment for several reasons.

First, if the bible is merely an instruction manual then the way in which we read the bible is entirely different than current scholarship is actually reading it. Now, this is not an argument against it being an “instruction manual,” it is simply a declaration that current scholarship is way off, if the instruction manual proclamation is correct. Does this tend to make me think that the “instruction manual" hypothesis is wrong? Yes, it does.

Second, if we are to read the bible as merely an instruction manual, then all the narrative, and all the history contained in the bible becomes pointless, so let’s just remove all that and leave only those things that instruct us. Of course, the person who made the “instruction” declaration certainly would not have any of this, but unfortunately he cannot see that his declaration certain seems to lead to this reduction.

Third, seeing the bible as merely an instruction manual also tends to miss the entire point of what the texts seem to be communicating, collectively anyway. Certainly the bible instructs, but was it written for that purpose? I don’t think so. In fact, I think that is rather trite. Moreover, knowing the person, as well as I do, who made this declaration, the comment is further reducible to a relative ethic based on individual preferences. The easiest things to understand, in this person’s mind, are those things in the bible that instruct: you shall not murder, etc. What is more, these are the easiest things to enforce, so why not think the bible was written for this reason. Thus, I think this is trite.

Lastly, there is so much more to the bible than merely “instructions.” Had he declared that bible is a story, perhaps that would not have bothered me as much; a story of the Jewish people and their messiah; a story of the Jewish messiah and the accomplishment of his work and purpose of His life: these things I could agree with, along with perhaps a few other things, but an instruction guide? No, the bible is not merely an instruction guide and if that is how this person sees the bible, he has missed the point entirely.

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