Challenge Your Certainty
One of the lingering benefits for me of attending seminary is the way it helps me appreciate the depth and breadth of the Christian tradition. Christians lived out their faith in numerous ways across a variety of cultures and time frames. This means they've also understood the Scriptures from a variety of perspectives too.
This is why I have little patience whenever someone argues that "The Bible is clear" on this subject or that. In my experience, it rarely is as clear as that person claims. Instead, that statement usually indicates that the person saying it to you has an immense amount of certainty in what they are saying and is likely unwilling to engage in any conversation to the contrary. And I've got the scars to show it.
It's a bit of whiplash considering how different the conversations look in a seminary classroom versus the traditional local church. This presents a potential challenge: How can a Christian expand their view of Christianity without attending seminary? To which I present an easy answer: read good books!
There are a couple of books that come to mind that I've read in the last few years. Both of these are great for a few reasons. First, the tone in which they write will show you how diverse the Christian tradition can be. They cite perspectives and conclusions from scholars you've likely never been exposed to before. Just this posture alone will challenge you.
Second, they offer you less-traditional ways of understanding the Bible. Each of these books tackles an intriguing idea. These are not often the ideas that make it to the regular preaching rotation on the weekend. Yet these are the kinds of ideas that invite you to drink deeply from the well of Christianity and explore your own journey with Jesus in new ways.
The point of this experience is not to feel superior to others who haven't read books like these but to rather increase your humility. This stuff is complicated and God is big. We can spend the rest of our lives exploring this and learning new things only to still manage just a glimpse of it all. And this should cause us to treat others with a profound sense of humility rather than certainty. But the journey to go deeper into theology can be a fun one. It should also illuminate how silly it is to think you've got all your theology 'figured out' and decide you are unwilling to change your mind.
Without further ado, here are two books I'd recommend. I suspect a reader or two is currently thinking, "I read Jeremy's blog so I don't have to slog through the books he reads." If that's you I have some good news. Both of these books are on audiobook too!
The Unseen Realm by Michael H. Heiser. This book looks at a variety of bizarre passages in the Bible and offers an explanation to make sense of them. You'll realize quickly that these are passages most Christians skip over and leave alone. Heiser dives deep into the supernatural realm and takes a fascinating look at the role of giants in the Old Testament. Click here to find different reading formats on Amazon.
The Forgotten Creed by Stephen J. Patterson. When Paul writes in Galatians that there is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female, was he actually referencing the earliest church creed? Patterson thinks so and makes a compelling case for how the early church was formed and what it means for our faith today. This is not the church history you are likely familiar with. Click here to find different reading formats on Amazon.
(Disclaimer: As an Amazon Associate, I may earn commissions from qualifying purchases from Amazon at no cost to you. Your reading can help support my writing. Thanks!)
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