Trying to figure out what the Bible says and means presents a thorny problem to any reader. The most recent parts of it were written about 2000 years ago, halfway around the world, in a language nobody speaks anymore. The only comparison I can make in our own culture is the struggle that seems to always be going on about how to interpret the US constitution. Intelligent people have come to opposite conclusions about what the founding fathers meant in a document written a little over 200 years ago in English.

As an outsider looking in on the workings of the Southern Baptist Convention, it seems like some issues are arising from different ways of explicating the Bible. I don’t expect absolute uniformity because that doesn’t seem to fit what I’ve always learned Baptists are about. However, I do get confused because people seem to have developed some pretty comprehensive theories of what the Bible means for us today. I think I’m missing a step between believing the Bible and constructing a comprehensive philosophical system with the Bible as the building blocks. The step I think I’m missing is how professional Christians are explicating the Bible to arrive at their chosen system of belief.

I don’t think I’m alone among laypeople in being perplexed. Most Sundays I go to church and listen intently to the minister’s presentation that seems like algebra. I can see the first number and I see another number on the other side of the = sign, but I’m not sure what the missing part of the equation is. To compound my difficulty, I don’t know what I’m supposed to do in the middle part of the equation to arrive at the minister’s answer. At times I suspect that we are simply following an established explication, i.e. we’ve already decided what the printed words mean and we are serving the equivalent of intellectual leftovers. Perhaps as a layperson, I’m not supposed to get this. If so, why read my Bible? I’d really like to understand the process. I’ve sketched out a few thoughts on a process for dealing with the Bible that makes sense to me that I’ll be posting over the next few days. I’d appreciate any thoughts you might have.

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