TOWARDS A JOINT AND UNIFIED OBJECTIVE-LEARNING ENVIRONMENT

We have people asking in Bible studies and casual conversations how to better understand the Bible and to not fall into the trap of tribally dogmatic and deeply religious mindset. How do we avoid romanticizing or mysticizing and over-spiritualizing the passages? I hear real questions and curiosity that connect to achieving real unity. Connect— in the deepest sense of belongingness. Truth be known, the answer to this is multilayer and also specific. So allow me to tackle this by offering practical and direct suggestions.

First, look at your book and material library. Honestly, calculate if you have a well-balanced catalog of diverse books. If you aren’t into reading, check your media (TV viewing and online visits). If 50% or more of your reading list is comprised of faith-based authorship, chances are you are already indoctrinated. In all likelihood, you are highly predisposed to a tribal mindset whether you admit it or not. In matters of highly-charged topics, you are unlikely to be open to a position you don’t follow even when an argument is strong and objective. You can argue this, but the truth is, there’s no arguing with biases. You may argue and say that at least what you read is faith-based or that you are generally a good person compared to those who overtly offend others. But how is this mindset working out in today’s environment? Most conversations we have, even polite ones are marred with biases, both implicit and explicit.

Next, see the company we choose to hang with. Aren’t most of our chosen groups and associations look or sound just like us? Do we eat the same type of cuisines every time and are reluctant to venture outside comfort zones? The thing is, a great number of us devour the same informational materials and stay within comfortable familiar zones even though we subscribe to a variety of platforms. The diversity talk is just that —talk. And then we wonder why we are so disintegrated, tribal. By tribal (and tribalism), I refer to an extreme sense of loyalty to one’s own group and belief system to the exclusion of everyone and everything else. Anything outside the person’s tribe is perceived as a potential threat or enemy.

Bear with me, a little. You can unfollow me later if that’s how you feel, but in the meantime, give the following the benefit of the doubt.

In this digital age of information, my advice: 1. Consume less. 2. Acquire new learning skills and tools that work. 3. Contribute to the promotion of a joint journey of learning together.

By the above I say, strategically limit your subscription of podcasts, Scriptural commentaries, sermons, and books. Consuming more and more opinion and interpretive information is just counterintuitive. You don’t have to devour every bible-inspired material in the market to understand the Bible and to get closer to God. Because really, when you read the Bible side by side with commentaries and multiple sermons from different churches, what you’re basically doing is endorsing a highly subjective process of elimination. The criterion used here is always based on what resonates more to you, what preaching-style or prose you liked the best.

In order to break tribalism, we have to get rid of our own deeply ingrained biases and confront our tribal thoughts and ways. Then and only then are we able to commit to a joint journey of learning —learning together as a joint community that is committed to the truth even when that means finding out your long-held belief is wrong.

And so what I am strongly proposing is for us to get back to the basics of reading comprehension and learning together. Focus instead on reading and learning about literary techniques, acquiring reading comprehension skills, checking out historical and ethnographic data for adjunct learning. And READ. Really, read and learn together the Bible’s text sans bias-magnet commentaries. This may not outright solve the problem of tribalism, but it’s a foundational start to a long-term and sustainable goal of loving everyone everywhere. ❤️

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/us/ or send a letter to Creative Commons, 171 Second Street, Suite 300, San Francisco, California, 94105, USA.

Share

We’re Christians. How did we learn our way to a tribal mindset?

The discussion below is only a 5.8-minute read for the average readers (130 words per minute). In today’s start of the week, I am posting a 761-word exposition on how most Bible-based way of learning primed readers into a tribal way of thinking. 🤓 I will posit, that in order to break Scriptural tribalism, we have to go back to the basic of reading comprehension, acquire critical thinking skills, and commit to a joint journey of learning.

Supposedly, Bible-based communities of varying denominations refer to the same Bible regardless of translations. But, the interpretations couldn’t be so different when it comes to a variety of specific issues. Here are a few examples of questions that could quickly become polarized issues among Christian communities. What does loving everyone everywhere mean? Who is our neighbor? Can women serve as spiritual leaders of men? What does the Bible say about gender roles? How do we reconcile our civic duties with the core message of the Bible? Is politics really bad? What about having Biblical conversations on LGBTQ and gun-related issues? How are we to handle and reconcile our local citizenship to that of being citizens of the world and the Kingdom of Heaven?

Frankly, I find uncorrupted Bible reading easy for our young learners and skeptics if they’re allowed the full range to really read the Bible as a literary book that it is. Most problems I see in the handling of Bible studies is that it has become a persuasion-centric discussion rather than an unbiased look of the text. There’s no room for respectful cynicism, agnostic criticism, and scholarly discussions.

Much of the circulated materials that the Bible-Based teachers and preachers choose to use in their teaching and preaching underscore the incontestable detail that even when it’s assumed that all of the Scriptures are God-breathed in the basic sense that its stories were inspired by devotional divinity, it’s beyond a reasonable doubt that its authorship is definitely human. The conveyed lessons often nullify extrinsic historical and ethnographic realities. Either intentional or otherwise, the audience is primed to see the Bible as de facto God.

The thing is, the Bible had been redacted and translated many times over. Corresponding to being a conquered and exiled nation, the ancients, in order to preserve their history, based the redactions in the Old Testament on what was thought as important materials to pass down to the next generation. The New Testament redactions were a result of intentional selection by criteria of which stories were to be considered to complete the Messianic narrative of redemption. Let this sink in for a moment.

Unfortunately, most tend to follow passage readings as an isolated or stand-alone ideology rather than a unified literary reading of a book studied in it’s final and finished form. The ensuing effect is personalized glossing if not a display of convoluted tribal dispositions. The mode of learning is unwittingly enabled to bring you to the book but never the book to you. And however clever you deny it, the fact remains that although you may have flipped to every page, you never really got to the whole book in its final and finished form.

It’s like forever being put on a task by a high school literary teacher to take notations of a highly popular and supposedly life-changing novel. It’s an endless annotation of details and subjective perception of a page. You see shadows and allusions to the heart of the entire story, but you never got to the point where you actually read and learned the whole book.

To truly engage the text of the Bible and to veer away from the trappings of doctrinal, religious and tribal disputes, I posit that Bible-related and Bible-based discussions and studies across the board should follow a joint pedagogical journey of learning. Truth be known, we can’t get to the applied practice if we can’t adapt to the commonsense part of learning the basics. In discussing potentially polarizing topics, it’s not possible to engage in an impassioned exchange of opposing viewpoints and then expect objective and logical conversation when the parties aren’t committed to abiding by basic learning common grounds. It’s only by a genuine joint journey of learning that we can break tribal predispositions and infighting and then connect our gifts of individual differences.

Here’s a clearcut short version of the central message of the Bible. The Gospel is always offensive to those with religious and tribal mindsets. And always, the text tells you what it means. You only hear it if you involve in your individual and collective journey the process of acquiring and applying essential skills to reading and learning.

And believe me, the process of getting to a joint pedagogical journey of learning with others requires a paradigm shift. The process may take some getting used to and sometimes it can get messy since everyone wants what they want when and how they want it. It’ll take a while, but with diligent follow-through and patient practice, it can be done.

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/us/ or send a letter to Creative Commons, 171 Second Street, Suite 300, San Francisco, California, 94105, USA.

Share

Why a literal reference to Hebrews 11:1 to unilaterally define faith only blurs your understanding of how faith works

An Exegesis: 1. Why a literal reference to Hebrews 11:1 to unilaterally define faith only blurs your understanding of how faith works. 2. What do Book of Hebrews and the Bible Really Say on Falling Away?

The bimonthly dinner potluck my family co-coordinates and attends for Bible studies and support group activities had a deep-level study of the Word during the scheduled August 30 get-together. There were a few digressions and impassioned but respectful variances in opinions which from my perspective, is not only highly indicative that interest is piqued and that the subject needs revisiting, it could very well also be a sign that we are growing as a learning community. That’s Good News!

It’s great that we’re having a robust conversation and that we’re being open about discussing subjective and influenced readings of the Scripture. And now as a family group, we get to dig into what the text actually tells us. That is amazing!

Bible studies are not a persuasion-centric gathering but rather, it’s an objective look of the text and a conversation about how we can be better in serving and loving each other and others.

Our last group study was focused on Matthew 12 and 13. In the interest of staying on point and respecting time, we cut short all digressed discussions. We put an implied earmark on them for future studies.

One contention brought out was that the definitive description of faith lies in the very verbatim text of Hebrews 11:1. Here then is my critical exposition of Hebrews 11:1 which includes an explanation why a literal and boxed used of this verse prevents not just a mindful understanding of the author’s narrative but it also veers us away from getting an insightful look at faith —or Faith As Defined and Embodied.

Think of a scene from your favorite film. That scene is connected not just to the plot but to the other components of the storyline. That scene is not the totality of the movie but a moving part of the narrative. It’s not intended to be treated as a disjointed, standalone unit of the film because if it is, then it should be its separate individual movie.

It’s the same with the Bible. No part of the Bible should be read or studied in isolation of the whole literary unit. Hebrews 11:1 is another example of a reading that shouldn’t be pulled in isolation or treated as strange from the unified literary study. When drawn separately, even when used as a faith affirmation quote, the passage becomes susceptible to being taken out of context.

I’ll state this very clearly. The text in Hebrews 11:1 is not to be read as a literal reality of willingly believing what’s not there. Instead, it should be acknowledged for its literary purpose which is a thesis statement of the chapter, “Now FAITH is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”

The author of Hebrews is not prescribing a mystical belief. Nor is the author advising to trust without verifiable evidence. In short, faith is not believing you will one day win the lottery jackpot. It isn’t trusting that your marriage is divinely intended while your spouse beats the daylight out of you.

The Book of Hebrews is what we can refer to as a catalog of faith. Like the other 65 books in the Bible, it has to be read and studied as part of a unified literary work in its finished form. Please refer below to the photo of the four principles of foundational Bible reading and study.

In Hebrews, faith is rigorously described in chapter 11 as non-transactional. The author will support this claim by naming various examples of people in the Torah who exemplified the virtue. The author will conclude that even though none of them got to live out what was promised by God, they knew, believed, and trusted the divinity of God. The point is, they didn’t have to first see the results in order to live their faith. It’s not ”Show me the money” like it was in Jerry Maguire. The whole study of the chapter is that faith is premised on the character and being of God. The faith by which the forefathers displayed shared common characteristics of knowledge and insight (of who and what God is), belief (in his being), and trust (safety under his care).

Whilst the above teaches and preaches us about faith, Apostle John in 1 John 4:12 and 13 shows us a cognizant way faith is developed and lived, “No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us. And God has given us his Spirit as proof that we live in him and he in us.”

The preceding exegesis also illuminates a basic point concerning another digression, falling away. I will say this again, no part of the Bible whether verse or a book should be studied apart from the entire narrative of all 66 books combined. First, let’s see what the Scriptures say in gist about the function of the Spirit in the world, specifically in reference to Salvation by Grace.

WHILE IN THE CONDITION OF SIN, THE FUNCTION OF THE HOLY SPIRIT IS TO CONVICT THE WORLD OF THE REALITY OF SIN, THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD AND THE INESCAPABLE JUDGMENT THAT FOLLOWS (John 14-16).

Hence, when a person answers the call of the Spirit, in effect by faith this person also accepts God’s transforming grace. Positionally, this individual moves into the family of God where the condition of sin is removed once and for all. I also need to be clear that this doesn’t mean that a person will no longer commit sins or that she or he is exempt from the vulnerability of sin. By the same token, once you are positionally moved into the family of God, you cannot be unsaved. Because if this is so, then you are saying that the process of Salvation has to be repeated. In short, you are also pointing to the belief that Christ has to be crucified again each time you are ”falling away.”

In fact, the book of Hebrews is a direct rebuke to anybody who professed faith yet their lives remain unchanged. If the foundational premise of Salvation and your personal relationship with God is that you have been transformed by grace through your faith, the natural overall progression is towards a maturing predisposition for greater goodness. Herod Antipas whom Jesus calls a fox (uncleaned animal) is an example of a person who claims faith but doesn’t really have anything to show for as evidence of a transformed life.

Inarguably, if one has truly received God’s transforming grace through faith, there’s an inevitable and marked paradigm shift in that person’s life that’s pointed towards a continuing process of loving everyone everywhere.

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/us/ or send a letter to Creative Commons, 171 Second Street, Suite 300, San Francisco, California, 94105, USA.

Share