2 (Neurosciency) Reasons Why Jesus and the Bible Can't be Separated (5-minute read)
Some notes on an Embodied Faith
I’m teaching at the Bridge Street Ministries Gap Year program this week. So there will be fewer posts this week. But back to the regular schedule next week.
I have friends who say things like: "I'd rather be Christ-like than biblical."
The idea is they really like Jesus but could do without most of the Bible. And they certainly don’t to be like those fundamentalists who cling so much to being “biblical”, so much so that often they don’t seem much like Jesus at all.
I get it.
We should hold Jesus and the Bible together, rather than opting for one over the other.
The Bible can be hard to understand. Downright offensive. And some of the most “biblical” people are the least like Jesus.
If it comes to a choice, I side with Jesus (as long as he gets to read us more than we read about him).
But we should hold Jesus and the Bible together, rather than opting for one over the other.
For how Jesus the Word connects to the Bible as God’s word, see my ebook, How Did We Get the Bible?
2 Neuroscience Reasons for Keeping Jesus and the Bible Together
For the last 300+ years—really, since the Enlightenment—people have been claiming to find the “real” Jesus under and behind the stories collected in the Bible. Or they just focus on Jesus and ignore the rest of the New Testament and most of the Old Testament.
There are good theological reasons why that is bad (again, see How Did We Get the Bible?)
But let’s look at two embodied raith reasons. Or, what we could call two neuroscience-informed reasons…
1) Jesus was Embedded and Encoded
As I mentioned in “What is Relational Neuroscience? The Four E's of Our Identity” (2-minute video), we are all embodied, embedded, encoded, and extended.
Let’s look at “embedded” and “encoded”.
We are all embedded in relationships. This is the “We” that helps to form the “Me” that I am. Being embedded in not optional. Remember, “No man is an island.”
And all these relationships are encoded in some way (they are given meaning and purpose by information and interpretation—which are generally given to use through our embedded relationships). You could think of “encoding” as the stories and scripts we live by.
Now back to Jesus.
As a faithful Jew of the time, he was deeply embedded in the life of his people. This included the daily, weekly, and annual religious rituals and practices—which were extremely communal.
And being embedded as a Jew meant being encoded by the words of God through Moses (primarily), and this histories of Israel, and the poetry of Israel, and the words of the prophets.
It was these words of God—these promises, covenants, warnings, and commandments—that shaped and formed the communal and corporate experiences of all Jews. It was these words that gave them hope in suffering, light in darkness, and love in the face of fear.
Jesus’ own identity—his relationships and his purpose—was embedded and encoded by Jewish scriptures (what scholars now call the Hebrew Bible and Christians call the Old Testament).
THEREFORE, to drive a wedge between Jesus and Scripture is to ignore the reality that shaped and formed Jesus—that he was a person of the word. Jesus was biblical—even if, like all of us, he wrestled with it.
Jesus was biblical—even if, like all of us, he wrestled with the scriptures and how they were interpreted.
2) The Early Church was Embedded and Encoded
Like Jesus, the early church was embedded in networks of relationship, which now included Jew along with Gentiles, slaves along with free people, and women alongside men. This embeddedness, in Christ, now included being filled by the Spirit, being found in Jesus, and being welcomed into the Father’s family.
And as we said before, Jesus was shaped and formed by the scriptures—encoded by them, given meaning through them. And of course, the Old Testament pointed toward and witnessed to the coming Messiah of God.
In the same way, the early church was shaped and formed by the scriptures—encoded by them. Their lives were given meaning through the scriptures. And now this includes the New Testament, which points back and witnessed to Jesus, the Lord and Messiah.
We could say that the church’s embedded relationship and encoding through the scriptures primarily functioned through their embodied sacraments, like bapitsm and communion.
Baptism is the welcoming into the new family of God (new embedded relationships), and is the immersion in the waters of creation, the passing through the Red Sea and the Jordan with Israel, and the cleaning waters of purification (participating in the encoding story of the Bible).
Commuion is the continuing celebration of the presence of Jesus as members of his body (embedded), through the retelling of the Last Supper, and doing the things Jesus commanded (encoding).
The Slow Fade away from both
So we can’t really make sense of Jesus or the early church is we separate the person (or the people) from the scriptures they were reading. The embedded relationships and the encoding of meaning go together.
Too often I see people start on a slow fade of faith when they separate Jesus and the Bible, ending with something that is hardly recognizable to the faith that Jesus' first followers, um, followed.
This slow fade happens because, in reality, people are trading their embedded relationship or their encoding (or both) for something else. And this is usually some kind of modern, Enlightenment understanding of relationships (embedded) and a modernistic view of the world (encoding) that distorts both Jesus and the Bible.
So, I read the Bible (as the word of God), and seek to be biblical, because Jesus did (as the WORD of God), and I follow Jesus.
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