I believe most Christians use the word “inspiration” to mean “the Bible is a magic book, where God speaks to us in unusual ways.” By this they mean that the contents of the Bible–the verses–have unusual power when read or applied. So on, let’s say, the matter of changing jobs, we might find a sentence that says, “Most men live lives of quiet desperation,” and we would conclude that this verse is God telling us to change jobs. If we were committed to the “magic book” approach and someone were to teach “Walden” as a whole, telling us the main ideas and message in the book, we might not consider that particularly impressive. So, Michael Spencer is saying that God is speaking to me through Walden, telling me to drop my grad program and move to the woods to live life as a hermit? Yes, this surely represents a faithful and intelligent approach to the Bible, or, else, it illustrates Michael’s point. What is the classic joke about the man in the hotel room flipping through the Gideon bible to find passage to help with his depression. Michael was dancing around the edges of a larger philosophical issue which is the inductive approach to anything. However, Luther did use the tools of humanist scholarship in rejecting the apocrypha as part of the canon. It’s clear to me that Michael was objecting to a certain misuse of the single text method that is quite common in evangelical and fundamentalist Christianity. Off the top of my (pretty ignorant) head, dumb ox, I’d say the difference is in context. Our job is to be as intelligent as we can when reading the Bible, paying attention to context(s), cultural background, themes, where the text fits in the overall narrative, etc.
However, having affirmed all the right exegetical things, I would want to argue that God is perfectly capable of speaking to us very personally while completely ignoring the context, cultural background, and all the rest, and does so often, if we have ears to hear. IM now has a group on Facebook, which is designed to help readers of the Internet Monk blog connect and communicate in other ways and places.


To make this as safe and user-friendly as possible, we have made the iMonk Community an invitation only group. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 License. As interfaith ministers who are ordained in the Universal Life Church, we need to be aware that views on the Bible are changing. Break Out is the Joel Osteen’s latest book to be released and hit bookshelves all across the globe.
Or another sentence might say, “I left my job and moved to the woods.” This, we would say, is God speaking to us. He reads and discovers a sentence in “Walden” that says, “I did not speak to another person for over a month.” From this, he concludes that God is telling him to not argue with his spouse.
It is nice to know what the book says, we would say, but the use of the book as a “magic text” doesn’t depend at all on understanding the meaning of the overall book, or the message Thoreau was conveying. Some things in these letters are hard to understand, things the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they also do to the rest of the scriptures. The magic book approach is more than a vulgar oracle, it is a misunderstanding of argument. Many view the bible as a collection of facts or principles, which implies the bible has no central theme, and Jesus, Moses, and others are merely contribuors or characters in the morality plays. I believe the Geneva Bible was the first widely read in English to print each verse as a separate paragraph. They have been inundated with media messages about how life is lived on the other side of the globe. Now we might be able to read the entire book and sustain that conclusion, or we might find–if we studied better–that the book didn’t sustain that particular use of an individual sentence.


The fact that this is a universe away from what Thoreau meant with that sentence would be irrelevant. Introductions and analysis of the book as a whole would almost be a secondary, and mostly useless, exercise in comparison to the more exciting and personal “magic book” use of “Walden.” We might be confident, in fact, that the ordinary reader can handle the “inspired Walden” with far more relevance for his life than the educated scholar handles the same book, because the scholar doesn’t believe that the sentences contain the power. The Bible was (is) a re-calibration of that preached Word that creates faith in the hearing of the gospel.
A great deal of the Reformed writings near the turn of the twentieth century (especially Princetonian writings) argued that the Bible was a collection of facts that could be scientifically mined for theological knowledge in the same way one approaches the natural sciences. They have also drawn conclusions about violence, war, and poverty and human indifference to the challenges of others. It wouldn’t really matter, however, to most of us, because God used the verse to speak to us, and that is the way we read the Bible. Coming to an understanding of why skepticism is on the rise may be the first step in finding a resolution.
I don’t have time to go through the hundreds of comments that go into spam every day, but let me know and if it's in spam I can do a quick search and set it free.
The admonition not to kill, for example, appears to them as a fairly straightforward approach to living in a civilized society.
Else, in our pride, we would never hear him speak to us through the mouth of an ass when we very badly need to.



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