7.07.2017

Bible Overload: Information Glut is not the Sign of a Healthy Christian Life.

 A friend of mine recently pointed out this article by Brian Jones (here), titled

"The Ridiculous Emphasis Christians Place on the Bible."

My first reaction is to balk at the title. There is nothing ridiculous about the Bible. Next to prayer, it is our clearest, if not most direct link to God. Once you get past the abrasiveness of the title though, I think the author makes a really good point. One I have considered myself.

I love to study the Bible - but I do think the way we Christians practice "spirituality," often results in an "information glut". You hear a sermon every Sunday. Then if you want to go deeper you might attend a Bible study, or listen to radio preachers, or perhaps read some Christian Books. We just let this information wash over us, but how much of it sinks in if 'we never reflect, or act on it?
"Don't just be hearers of the Word, be doers as well." - James 1:22
Not too long ago, I was given the opportunity to start a new Sunday School Class at our church. I remember thinking, "Most people probably hear the sermon and walk away - never to think about it again. Maybe what we need is to have a Sunday School Class that discusses the sermon from the previous week."
  • This would give people a chance to reflect on what they've heard.
  • They would keep it fresh in their minds, because they'd know they'd be discussing it.
  • And there would also be opportunities to talk about how we put what we've heard into practice - or how we could do so. 
Nobody ever came - so after a couple weeks I shut it down. Now I'm not sure if it is because people are set in their ways and just wanted to continue meeting with the same class they were used to. Maybe that's it. Or maybe the idea of rehashing something they've already heard didn't interest them. Or maybe they just don't believe I'd make a good teacher - I'm not sure. I currently have a Facebook version of the group. Theoretically this should make it easier for people to share their thoughts with one another - because we don't have to all be around at the same time. But even this hasn't really taken off.

Perhaps I'm cynical, but I feel like the most obvious answer is that people just don't really care that much. It's easy to turn on the radio, or a listen to a podcast. Much easier than reflecting on what you've heard and sharing your thoughts. Certainly much easier than putting it into practice.  But that is not Christian spirituality.

Paul tells us,
"Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. If someone thinks he knows something, he does not yet know to the degree that he needs to know. But if someone loves God, he is known by God."
1 Corinthians 8:1b-3
and James says,
"Anyone who hears the word but does not carry it out is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror, and after observing himself goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.  But the one who looks intently into the perfect law of freedom, and continues to do so—not being a forgetful hearer, but an effective doer—he will be blessed in what he does."

James 1:23-25
Evolving forms of media allow information to come at us today, faster and faster. On one hand this is great. It really cuts down the amount of time we need to spend gaining knowledge. But on the other hand, it come at a cost, it can make us intelligent without being wise, and without being good. It can do this if we don't take time for reflection and intentionally act on what we hear
  • We went from people who couldn't read, and had to have the Word spoken to us. 
  • To a people who each had our own copy of the Bible - which we could read when we had some alone time.
  • To a people who had a whole myriad of teachers available to us on the radio and in books.
  • To a people who can access information 24/7 on a whim.

Over indulging in information is intoxicating and distracting. Life used to force you into being reflective, because you had to memorize chunks of scripture if you wanted to reflect on it. Life's demands put us in scenarios where we could put our faith into practice.

Today most of our information is externalized - just a click away, but not typically hidden in our own hearts. And our interaction with others can be as limited as we like - due to the fragmentation of our culture. Discipleship today, and in the future will be less about adding more and more, and more about curating and cultivating what we've learned, experimenting and putting what we hear into practice.






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