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Following Jesus

Divine Interrogations, Part 1: That Awful Word

July 5, 2017 by

I admit, I love the Bible. I get steamed whenever it gets bashed. Bible bashers haven’t a clue what they’re messing with. But I also can’t stomach Bible thumpers, those who treat God’s word as if it were a paper idol. Bible twisters, those who make the Bible mean only what they want it to mean, are no better. In each case God’s word is gagged. Is there a way to hear God’s voice through the Bible anew? How can God’s word leap off the Bible’s pages and into our lives?

Interrogation. An awful word. Who likes to be interrogated? The first time I was really in the hot seat was when my father caught me smoking. I was ten years old, and it wasn’t pretty. Yet oddly enough it was life-changing, a crucible which so purged my conscience that even to this day I can’t live very well with myself, or with others for that matter, when hiding something.

Years later I suffered another kind of interrogation. I was teaching a graduate course in theology and rumors were flying that I didn’t believe in the authority of Scripture. For two hours, over coffee, the chair of my department put me to the test. He not only dismissed my simple declaratives, but also parsed every word I said, challenging me to articulate the logical implications of my position. After our last cup of coffee he was satisfied. For myself, I was chastened. I had learned a hard lesson. “We who teach will be judged more strictly” (James 3:1).

The gift of God’s word lies not so much in the answers it provides but in the fact that when God speaks, something powerful happens.

As a young student in philosophy I loved to read Plato. I was enamored with the Socratic method and devoured Plato’s dialogues. The way in which Socrates exposed the absurdities of common conventions ignited in me a fire to know, and to know well. Though he infuriated, not to mention embarrassed, his interlocutors Socrates modelled the philosopher’s ultimate quest: to know the truth, and only the truth. This excited me, and so I embarked on a doctorate in philosophy. I was determined to find and give answers to life’s questions and to be relentless in questioning anything that was rationally baseless.

Then something happened: I underwent Socrates’ knife and was never the same again.

I was a doctoral student at the time. Peter Singer, a renowned moral philosopher and an ardent utilitarian, (now teaching at Princeton), began to dress me down right in front of my moral philosophy class: “Mr. Moore, tell me. How, exactly, are humans of more worth than any other species that possess sentience?” For every line of argument I could think of – appealing to intuitive notions of sanctity and inviolability and to moral distinctions such as primary and secondary duties – Singer ripped my cerebral hubris wide open, leaving me severely hemorrhaging, and more than a little humbled. “Mr. Moore, I suggest you consider again your case that human life is sacred just because it is human life. You may discover that such a notion might simply be medieval.”

easter dawn

I was again chastened. And not only that, my belief in the power of rational demonstration was thoroughly fried under the embers of finitude. Yet, as humiliating as that experience was, what eventually emerged from the debacle of that day was not just a chastened view of reason, but a new-found appreciation for the role faith played in the human quest for wisdom. God’s revelation now had a crack through which to shine into my overly rationalistic worldview. My philosophic career, as well as my faith, took a turn for the better.

Being interrogated makes most of us sweat. We dread being found out. Worse, we abhor the thought of having to change. Yet, this is precisely why the Bible is such a gift. Granted, we need answers. It is also natural and good to turn to the Bible for help. We “see through a glass dimly,” the apostle Paul says, and need God’s Word to guide our feet and light our way. Apart from divine revelation, we remain in the dark.

But the gift of God’s word lies not so much in the answers it provides but in the fact that when God speaks, something powerful happens. “‘Let there be light,’ and there was light” we read in Genesis 1:3. God’s word sheds light. More than that, it is “alive and active, sharper than any double-edged sword,” the writer of Hebrews says. “Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (Heb. 4:12–13). God’s word reveals to us what we already know to be true, but don’t want to acknowledge. When God speaks we are laid bare, we need to be made new, we need to heed his call.

“Who stands fast?” Dietrich Bonhoeffer asks. “Only the one whose final standard is not his reason, his principles, his conscience, his freedom, or his virtue, but who is ready to sacrifice all this when he is called to obedience and responsible action in faith and in exclusive allegiance to God. The responsible individual tries to make his whole life an answer to the question and call of God. Where are those responsible people?”

Indeed, where are we in relation to God’s word? When was the last time you heard his personal address? Why do you read the Bible anyway? Are you willing to make your life an answer to God’s questions? We can study and appeal to the Bible all we want, but its author will remain silent and its message will remain closed to us unless we are ready to submit to God’s purifying light and power.

Check back in three weeks for the next piece in this series.


About the author

Charles E. Moore

Charles E. Moore

Charles E. Moore resides with his wife and daughter in Esopus, New York where he teaches Bible and Christian Thought at The...

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  • Thank you for giving me the opportunity to read more of your blog.

    Leila Constable
  • Thank you for these refreshing thoughts. This has encouraged me to study His Word on a more regular basis again as I had somewhat fallen away. Thank you again!

    Jeanne Brothers
  • I have been following you on facebook and just began reading Plough and find it excellent and spiritually challenging. This is my first time to read the blog and this article is penetrating and challenging. I want to read more.

    Forrest Long
  • Thank you for this thought provoking essay. I will meditate upon it

    Phyllis Everette