The Dark Side's picture

The Dark Side

It’s one of the hardest questions we face when reading the Bible: how do we interpret God, when he is loving on the one hand, and a violent murderer on the other? The Egyptian firstborns, the Israelite rebels, the Canaanite inhabitants – women, children and animals – all suffer gruesome death at the hand of the ‘friend to those who fear him’ and the champion of the weak.

There’s a standard answer to this conundrum. It goes along the lines that God has different aspects to his character. He is loving, but he is also holy. He is forgiving, but he is also a judge. To deny any of the biblical images of God is to reduce him; to cut chunks out of a masterpiece so that the image is destroyed and our theology torn down to tatters.

But it’s exactly this ‘image’ of God that’s the problem for me. Because just as in Genesis humankind is made in the likeness of the divine, so we continue to remake ourselves in the image of whoever we believe God to be. In other words, we become what we worship.

If we just start making God in our image, we’ll lose any of the wonder that comes from understanding the scriptures as a revelation, a self-disclosure by God. But if we take the Bible entirely at its own word, we’ll be plunged into an abyss of contradictions too complex to fathom. We’ll be forced to resign ourselves to non-theology; an understanding of the divine so broad and all-inclusive that it means nothing.

Over the next few months I’ll be blogging on this question, hopefully giving some ideas as to how we can steer through the maze. It’s my belief that the ‘dark side’ gives us a helpful metaphor for thinking about theology. This isn’t about yin and yang; it’s about a space for something new.

So stay tuned, and gimme your comments.

Monkey's picture

The MonkeyBar Challenge Week 1

Hi everyone! The readings for Week 1 are:

1 Jan: Gen 1:1 – 2:17; Psalm 1:1 – 6; Matt 1:1 – 1:25
2 Jan: Gen 2:18 – 4:16; Psalm 2:1 – 12; Matt 2:1 – 2:18
3 Jan: Gen 4:17 – 6:22; Psalm 3:1 – 8; Matt 2:19 – 3:17
4 Jan: Gen 7:1 – 9:17; Proverbs 1:1 – 7; Matt 4:1 – 4:22
5 Jan: Gen 9:18 – 11:9; Psalm 4:1 – 8; Matt 4:23 – 5:20
6 Jan: Gen 11:10 – 13:18; Psalm 5:1 – 12; Matt 5:21 – 5:42
7 Jan: Gen 14:1 – 16:16; Psalm 6:1 – 10; Matt 5:43 – 6:24

Hope you enjoy!

Matt Valler's picture

Reading the Bible in one year... some tips

Reading the whole Bible in one year is not easy. But it definitely is doable. Here are some tips from my experience. Please feel free to comment and add your own.

I've read the Bible in one year twice before. The first time I found a regular time for reading which became part of the rhythm of my day. The second time I decided to carve out chunks of time to read each book as a whole (although some of the bigger OT books defeated me in one sitting!) Whether you're planning to read the Old Testament, the New Testament, or both, finding time to read and sticking to it will be the biggest challenge. So if you haven't already, I'd suggest having a think about when you will do your readings so that you don't get overwhelmed after a few weeks and give up.

You might be used to reading the Bible in small chunks, reflecting on each verse, or word, and meditating on how God might be speaking to your life. That won't work with so many verses to get through - it just won't. This is especially true if you are reading the Old Testament. Parts of it are duller than watching paint dry, and others are utterly incomprehensible. In order to make it, you just have to keep reading and worry about meaning later. I found that the dull bits and the confusing bits came alive in the end, but only because I stuck with it and could look back on them afterwards and see where they fitted.

Matt Valler's picture

Writing the Word on John

If you've read my post What's the Word? you'll realise it's a bit different to some of the others. I've gone for a more creative re-reading, so this is my chance to explain what on earth it's all about.

I'm a passionate believer in the importance of history. Knowing the past unlocks the future; we gain insight and clarity from the lessons of experience. And I love reading the Bible with an eye closely pinned to the historical story behind the text, the context each writer or editor faced, the events to which they respond. I love it because it brings the story alive. But ultimately that's not enough.

Matt Valler's picture

A matter of perspective

I love using Google Earth. The image of our rotating planet is mesmerizing, so tranquil in the vacuous oceans of Space. But what I enjoy most is the visual journey down to a specific location. The globe rotates as the camera angle swings down at lightening speed towards the ground and a tiny space on the surface of the earth. I can even see my own house and the cars parked in front. This is my world.

Which is my world?

My planet or my house?...