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Sunday, August 23, 2009

How we, too often, do Biblical study and interpretation

From an article in First Things on the Green Bible:

The Green Bible presents us with a curious kind of natural theology: We start with things we know to be true from trusted sources—Al Gore, perhaps?—and then we turn to Scripture to measure it against those preexisting and reliable authorities. And what a relief to discover that God is green. Because we already know that it's good to be green—what we didn't know is whether God measures up to that standard. Alan Jacobs, "Blessed are the Green of Heart," First Things, May, 2009.

I haven't seen the Green Bible. I don't know whether Jacobs' criticism is fair or not. (He indicates, in the article, that he is doing his part to take care of the environment himself, and there is a comment to the article that he was not being fair.) I do know myself, and how I sometimes act. How often do I do that sort of Biblical study and interpretation? Doing it in reverse, that is -- starting out with a preconceived view and searching the Bible until I find justification for it?

God help me.


George said...

"The Green Bible will equip and encourage people to see God's vision for creation and help them engage in the work of healing and sustaining it. With over 1,000 references to the earth in the Bible, compared to 490 references to heaven and 530 references to love, the Bible carries a powerful message for the earth."- quote from the Green Bible Website (

Using this logic, the subject of the earth is to be viewed as roughly twice as important as love and heaven. While we're at it, why don't we count other key words like hell and money and see where they stack up. I believe that God's creation is important to Him, and God has given us the responsibility of stewardship over His creation. However, that stewardship is not close to the central theme of the Bible. The earth must be renewed. But so does all of creation. I think the Green Bible is a rabbit trail, diverging from the story of the need for man's redemption.

Martin LaBar said...

You are right, George, at least in that environmental stewardship isn't the main emphasis of the Bible. I can't go further because I haven't seen the Green Bible.

I do think that there is also a big danger in "reverse bible study," of which the Green Bible may be an example. Someone (perhaps me) believes in, say, a particular scheme for Christ's return, or for the role of women in the church, and then looks for justification for that position.

Thanks again.