‘The Bible: It’s Just Not That Into You’

Posted on by Jeremy Daggett

Rachel Held Evans, on how the Personal Promise Bible is an unfortunate reflection of our individualistic North American mindset:

While this product may be an extreme example, it points to the profound influence of Western individualism on our reading of the biblical text. Passages that were originally written for groups of people, and intended to be read and applied in a community setting (the nation of Israel, the various early churches, the first followers of Jesus), have been manipulated to communicate a personal, individual message … thus leading the reader away from the original corporate intent of the passage to a reaffirmation of the individualistic, me-centered, and consumerist tendencies of American religious culture.

I've often heard this suggested with John 3:16: "For God so loved Jeremy." This is a grave mistake.

Such a reading renders the reconciling work of God into little more than a personal improvement project, with the individual at the center, rather than the sustained and relentless work of God to reconcile and redeem the whole world.

Yes, Jesus loves me (this I know). But when we read the Bible, too often we jump straight to today. To "me" or "us." It's like we put the saving and sustaining presence of Jesus in a time machine and launch it into our current setting. In doing this we forget that Jesus hit the scene at a specific time in history to a specific place as an integral part of God's ongoing relationship with humanity. The arrival of Jesus of Nazareth bridges Genesis to our situation and looks ahead to Revelation.

We're part of a much bigger story. Substituting "me" for "world" as the primary object of God's love produces a passive Christianity. Maintaining the historical and community perspective, on the other hand, translates into an active participation in what God is already doing, what he's been doing for millennia.

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