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Reading the Bible Existentially

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
July 25, 2022 12:01 am

Reading the Bible Existentially

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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July 25, 2022 12:01 am

To better understand how the Bible applies to us, we should consider how it applied to its first readers. Today, R.C. Sproul invites us to enter into the rich and vibrant drama of God's Word.

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Today on Renewing Your Mind. I'm talking about dealing with the people in the Scriptures are feeling because the local characters are not fictional but is so easy for us to so romanticize the heroes and the personages of Scripture that we forget that they were just as we are just as we are in frugal ordinary people. The God sometimes called to do extraordinary things. Hello and welcome to Renewing Your Mind on this Monday five Lee Webb and over the next few days. Dr. RC scroll is going to help us know how to interpret the stories that we read in the Bible so that we get the most out of our study was join RC no.

I want to look in this session that a very important symbol that may be a little bit surprising to you as we begin, and that is the principle that we ought to read the Bible, X substantially and when I talk about reading the Bible. X substantially I am not using the word in the philosophical sense. I do not mean that we ought to apply the philosophical method that is married to existentialism to the Bible as many are doing. What I mean by that is simply this, that we ought to read the Bible as people who are personally passionately and intimately involved with what we are reading. There is a link. Of course, to existentialism at this point I think of the philosopher Kierkegaard the 19th century thinker who was so important for the shaping of later philosophy in the field of existentialism looked at mankind and said that there different stages along life's way or what he called stadia along life's way and I see explained that to his readers. He made a significant difference between what he would call the aesthetic stage and the X substantial stage of life the aesthetic stage is defined as that dimension of life whereby we stand on the fringes of human activity, and we remain always and forever spectators were never personally involved in what Kierkegaard was calling us to was that, particularly as Christians we are called to be passionately involved in the affairs of life.

We cannot afford as Christians to stand back on the fringes and merely be observed now it's that principle that I want to translate now to the reading of the Scriptures we are not to come to the Bible and simply remain aloof from its message try to reduce it to an objective bit of information that we are to dissect and analyze, and record in our memory device, but this book is a book that is filled with life is addressing us in the midst of the stream of our own lives and if it is going to speak to us.

We need to step into its skin to read the stories in a certain sense, as if they were written especially for us. I remember Adele Roger St. John wrote a novel a few years ago in which the hero of the story was a man who who was puzzled about what the Christian faith was all about, and he had a casual acquaintanceship with that. He knew people who were Christians but he had never been serious about investigating the content of the Christian faith, and he was like many people who felt well.

Religion is something that we do by way of institutions and the by church attendance, but I'm not going to get to personally involved, someone explained to the hero of the story that if Christianity was going to be meaningful. In this man's life.

He had to see its personal ramifications. So by way of experiment, the man did was he went back to his office. It was a successful businessman and instructed his secretary to type up each of the epistles of the New Testament as if they were personal letters that were written just for this me and she even went so far as to address these letters not as Paul to the Philippians or Paul to the Thessalonica and's or Paul to the church at Rome, but rather it was Paul to Hank so and so and then they were put in an envelope and they were sent to this man's home to his home mailbox and he would go out every week and there would be a letter on the apostle Paul addressed to him and what that little game did was that it forced him to read the Scriptures personally and X substantial. The Bible is filled with drama and to read it existentially means to to try to bridge that gap between ourselves in the first century, in the in the culture in which the Bible was written and try to project ourselves into the life situation of the Scriptures so that we can feel it, as well as read it with their some license that goes on here. The preachers use all the time. It involves the task of reading between the lines. Again it was Kierkegaard who in his little book fear and trembling. Did this with a very poignant passage from the Old Testament.

We know that the 22nd chapter of Genesis.

For example, records one of the most moving stories in all of Old Testament history is the story of God calling Abraham and telling him to take his son, the child of promise, Isaac, and to take him into a form and then there Abraham was asked by God to deliver Isaac to that mountain and to offer him on an altar of sacrifice to kill his own son, and of course the narrative of that event comes very abruptly very concisely and succinctly to us in the Old Testament were God comes to Abraham. He says Abraham take now my son, thine only son. The son, whom you love us. Isaac and take him to this mountain, where I will show you and so on goes the instruction and Kierkegaard was reading that on one occasion and he himself had suffered greatly in his soul from the pangs of a broken engagement. In fact, so much of Kierkegaard's writings is poetry and drama focuses on about release of the anguish of his soul that he experienced from that lost love somebody reads the story in the Old Testament of God asking Abraham to take the most precious thing in his life and give it away. Kierkegaard belted in his own so and he began to muse on and then he tried to think what was going on in Abraham's mind and the text says simply as it continues and Abraham rose early in the morning and Kierkegaard got to that portion of the text.

He stopped and he said wait a minute, why did Abraham rise early in the morning. The Bible doesn't tell us in order to know what we have to read between the lines we have to try to project what it would be like to be in that life situation. So he began to muse on it and he thought maybe it's because Abraham was such a man on so vital a faith so disciplined, so rockhard in his commitment to God that no matter whatever God asked him to do.

Abraham reported for duty early God.

You want me to sacrifice my son on the altar, so let it be said, so let it be done.

I'll set the alarm clock for 5 o'clock in the morning and I'll get up and I'll report for duty and I'll take my son and do exactly what you said.

I won't miss a beat. I won't skip a step. I'll do whatever you want me to do. Let's one way we can understand the text and Kierkegaard subset for sports, but then he said waited Abraham was a man.

Maybe he was the friend of God.

Maybe he's the prototype of all faithful men maybe had faith such as to move mountains, but even Christ himself sweat beads of perspiration that were of blood in the garden of Gethsemane and he was greater than Abraham edge Kierkegaard looks of the artist. Don't tell me that Abraham got up early in the morning out of us simplistic sense of obedience and duty to God I can regards signal that were I and God had come to me and said kill my own son. I think the reason I would've woken up early in the morning is because I know I would never been able to fall asleep as soon as my eyelids grew heavy, the pain of that decision would intrude into my mind and I would begin to think how could this be God for me to sacrifice about someone, God is the is he is simply testing me, maybe at the last second, God will deliver me then maybe he won't. And so the anguish of a soul wrestling with his trust in God.

The anguish of a soul hanging the face by his fingernails was tormenting Abraham and maybe said Kierkegaard. That's why he got up early in the morning.

We don't know as I said the Bible doesn't tell us of silent and is of course I can be very dangerous and irresponsible thing for us to take too much license of intrude too much in the text, and we don't want to do that. I've already given a lesson on the dangers of subjectivism and interpretation, but that's not what I'm talking about here. I'm talking about feeling what the people in the Scriptures are feeling because the biblical characters are not fictional.

They are not fairytale characters. They are real people, real flesh, real blood and we need to be reminded of it was a Scriptures and solves reminders from time to time at St. James does in his epistles when he exhorts the people of God to pray, he reminds them of the effectiveness of the prayers of Elijah and he said, remember that Elijah was a man like under you dispatches were just like your passions's heart aches were just like your heart is so easy for us to so romanticize the heroes and the personages of Scripture that we forget that they were just as we are one of my favorite illustrations comes in the 10th chapter of Leviticus where we have their the record of the death of the sons of Aaron may dab and by whom we read the text as follows all night, and a buyer who sons of Aaron, took either of them. His censer and put fire therein and put incense. Thereupon they offered strange fire before the Lord, which he commanded them not, and there were not far from the Lord and devoured them and they died before the Lord. No listener that two verses and we get the action. We don't get much explanation as to why they did what they did but in two verses night out, a buyer whose act is recorded for us and their dad are recorded for very very sketchy by way of outline really not filling in the details in their fullness, but it's hitting the main point that you would find in the front page article in the newspaper that Moses said unto Aaron, this is it that the Lord spoke saying I will be sanctified in them that come near me and before all the people I will be glorified and Aaron held his peace. There is not a word in their about Aaron's reaction to the slaughter of his sons except what is implied that what you think it was like for you think Aaron at three years that his sons have been slain at the altar casually strolled over to the tent of Moses and said Moses. I've a theological question for you.

Perhaps you can help.

I just not quite sure why it is that God would take the lives of my two sons. Perhaps you can enlighten think that's how it happened. You know that's not how it happened when Aaron saw the bodies of his sons in front of that altar. He was tearing his hair he goes to Moses tent.

He's screaming mad since what's going on here what God would do this.

I've served them faithfully day and night.

Whatever is asked me to do. I've done I raise my own sons I prepare them for the priesthood. One small little transgression.

God destroys the why Moses Moses says Aaron. Don't you remember that God made it perfectly clear that he was seriously so I will be treated as being holy by those who approach me and by those who minister in my name. Don't you see Aaron God will not tolerate sacrilege at the altar, even if it comes from the hands of your sons, God won't tolerate that. Aaron bowed his head, as the Scripture says. Aaron held his peace. He held his peace on but it took every ounce of strength and energy that he possessed to hold his peace because his peace was reaming to let go into warfare against God. This is a moment of passion and I suggest that as you read the Scriptures in this excess tension way that you look for the drama that's there because the Bibles filled with drama and when the person comes to me and said I break down in my Bible study because I get bored I say. How could you get bored.

The blood is flowing in the streets. The sexual impulses of men and women are like fire throughout the Scripture. Anger, hatred, hostility I got. I think of Kierkegaard who said about his own age.

In the 19th century and the church of Europe at that time.

He said my complaint is not that this age is wicked.

My complaint is that it's poultry it's done all it lacks life. There's no lan.

There's no verb there's no excitement. The said and so I am driven from time to time when I'm bored by my contemporary surroundings. I am driven back to the Old Testament were people are real and they breathe life they lie, they kill the steel they treat they commit adultery in a word, they are men there women less willingly, that we get in touch with the life blood of Scripture as we read if we practice looking for the drama there's no way that we can be more because I'm convinced her friends that this book is the most dramatic book that is ever been written. Remember back in the 40s there was a radio program borrowed from the best-selling book by Fulton elsewhere entitled the greatest story ever told.

Hollywood has understood without any great desire to communicate the truths of Christianity that if you want to tell a story that has passion and drama from the things of the Scripture because the things of the Scriptures lend themselves to this kind of draw.

I can remember one last example that I'll give you later on in the book of Leviticus we read in the 13th chapter of the following instructions see how interesting Scripture is in the Lord spoke unto Moses and Aaron, saying what a man shall have in the skin of his flesh, arising scabbard bright spot in it be in the skin of his flesh, like the plague of leprosy that it should be brought under Aaron the priest are 100 to 1 of the sons of the priestly preshow look on the plague in the skin of the flesh, and when they are in the plug is turned white in the plug-in site be deeper than the skin of his flesh, that is the plague of leprosy in the preshow look upon him and pronounced him and cling the bright spot be right in the skin of his flesh and site be no deeper than the skin in the here. There are be not turn right in the preshow sentiment that the plague seventh in the preshow look upon him. The seventh and behold of the plague in his sight.

His stay in the plague spread not a how are you doing you still with me goes all the preshow look again on the seventh day of the plug be somewhat dark in the plague spread, not the skin. The pre-supermassive claim is but a scab that he shall wash his clothes and be skinny but the scabs spread much abroad in the skin at the you read that it goes on laser just for free chapters. I know the first thing times I read the first chapters of Leviticus. They gave me an Excedrin headache. I couldn't wait to get past all these pedantic points of a description of various illnesses and disease.

The blade that was like reading somebody's book on anatomy and I thought that's that's gotta be the most boring stuff. How could God the Holy Spirit waste his time inspiring stuff like the one day I was reading I just been talking to a friend who'd gone to their doctor and the doctor had found some strange shadowy marks that were showing up in an x-ray. The doctor wasn't sure what was causing these images in the x-ray plates was a harmless massive scar tissue. A benign tumor board that show the beginnings of a virulent cancer so my friend then went to the hospital to have a biopsy performed, and then the tissue that was taken and the biopsy was sent to the lab to go through the various procedures of pathology that are involved in modern medicine and realize what my friend went through while waiting for the verdict would come back from the lab harmless benign tissue or fatal cancer that would snuff out the that's what these people were going through when they went to the priest when they saw a scratch on their skin when they saw scab form on their skin. In those days they didn't just assume that it was a mosquito bite. It could very possibly be the first clue of the advent of the most dreadful, dreadful disease that could afflict them. The disease of leprosy even go from the Old Testament to the new and think of the drama that surrounds Jesus ministry developer how the leper comes down the street and sees Jesus and he cries out in a loud voice to mercy upon me, and I directed man is begging on the street. Jesus walks over and breaks all the laws that are set forth here about contamination in contact with somebody involved with the scourge of leprosy.

Jesus comes over at Dr. Sam. What does that say to you about your lower who will stoop down from his throne on heaven and place is an on the most wretched flesh of man, to bring you to human life.

How would we understand if we didn't first take the time to see the drama even in Leviticus, even in the dietary laws. As we read the entire Terri's office and we say what could be more boring than mother were supposed to eat things that true the Condor. How many clothes I am their hooves.

All of that business and then we see men like Daniel Shadrach and me shacking up in the court taken away into captivity in a process where the Babylonians take, not everybody from Israel into exile, but they take the cream of the crop. The best scholars the best musicians the best artists the best businessman and they try to integrate them into the life of the culture of Babylon, but the Jews don't want to give up their heartache. They want to remain Jews.

They don't want to be assimilated in the Babylonian culture and so the Jews refused to break their laws of kosher the laws of diet that God had prescribed from heaven itself they would not bow down to the images of the Emperor and for that Daniel goes the lion's den and Shadrach me shack the Bendigo end up in a flaming fiery we would understand the drama if we didn't understand the crucial role that the diet provisions have for the one who is chosen of God to be special. It's all there is there an passion is there and drama for us to touch us where we live, we have to see the flesh that humanity of the people with their existence Qatar existence. That's what I mean by an existential reading of the word of God. Well, I hope that energizes your study of Scripture you're listening to Renewing Your Mind on this Monday. Thank you for being with us today as we feature Dr. RC Sproul series knowing Scripture. It is such a privilege to have the very words of God in our hands. Along with that privilege comes responsibility. We need to know how to interpret Scripture how to read it. That's why we like to send you this for DVD set and you can request it with your donation of any amount to litigator ministries. You can call us at 800-435-4343 or if you prefer you can go online to give your Be sure to check your online learning library led the PDF study got there. Once you've completed your request before we go I want to thank all of our ministry partners you support not just Renewing Your Mind.

But all of ligatures outreaches around the world. If you're not in this report are we encourage you to consider joining the many people who prayerfully support us with a recurring monthly donation of $25 or more.

Those gifts allow us to better plan the ministry opportunities that God's providence are presenting themselves to us each day. You can enjoy that Renewing Your or if you prefer you can call us at 800-435-4343 my colleague here will be glad to sign you up next time on Renewing Your Mind what we have in the New Testament is not merely the record of the event, but also we had the record on the interpretation of the event.

I hope you make plans to join us for another lesson from the crystal series. Knowing Scripture concentrating on how to interpret historical narrative is tomorrow.

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