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Fresh perspectives on Bible stories - Workin' Mama - 02-05-2018

I think there's another thread somewhere about Bible verses that people find triggering. I'm looking for something more positive here.

Are there any Bible stories, or other portions of scripture, that you have gained a whole new perspective and appreciation for since leaving fundamentalism?  This is for everyone, whether you are still a believer, or if you are now an atheist but appreciate some portions of the Bible for its ancient wisdom.

I'll go first.

Recently I've been thinking a lot about the story of Solomon's son, Rehoboam. It is such a fascinating story about human nature and the dynamics of power.

Solomon, the wealthiest and perhaps the most powerful king that Israel ever had, dies, leaving his son Rehoboam as king. The people come to young Rehoboam and ask him to decrease taxation. The elders, his father's friends, tell him to at least listen to the people and have a civil discourse with them. He doesn't like what they say, so he asks his young friends. They advise him to basically rule with an iron fist. He takes their advice, and promises the people that he will be a harsh, unrelenting ruler -- much more than his father ever was. As a result, the people rebel and the kingdom is splintered.

Perhaps the kingdom would have eventually split anyways, but definitely not that soon if Rehoboam had acted in a more reasonable manner. It's the old adage, "You'll draw more bees with honey than with vinegar." Being a bully (or a tyrant) will only get you so far, and it can backfire. Diplomacy -- the ability to negotiate, compromise, find common ground, to smooth people over and give them a voice -- this is how lasting power and influence are built. Oppression may keep people under your thumb for awhile, but the human spirit craves freedom.

When I was in the IFB, I didn't think much about this story. On the rare occasion that I heard someone preach on it, usually the emphasis was on listening to one's elders. This certainly has merit, as older people have more life experience and often more wisdom; a lot of people tend to mellow out as they age and learn from experience to choose their battles carefully. But there is more to the story than just listening to one's elders, and I didn't think about it much. Also in reading this story as an IFBer, I knew that what Rehoboam did was wrong, but I also had this vague sense that the people should have been loyal to the line of David and Solomon. I'm not sure why I felt that way -- maybe it was my ingrained ideas about authority and loyalty, or maybe it was just my human tendency as a reader to side with the main characters in the story.

Interestingly, the Bible actually says that it was God's will for the kingdom to be split, as a punishment to Solomon for his idolatry. If I remember correctly, this was revealed by prophecy to Solomon while he was still alive. Perhaps it was already apparent that Rehoboam was an arrogant fool when this prophecy was made. But regardless, the people were actually accomplishing God's divine purpose in their rebellion. Go figure.


RE: Fresh perspectives on Bible stories - WalrusWrangler - 02-05-2018

I heard a lot of preaching on Rehoboam (my former IFB pastor loved the OT), but like you mentioned, it was always about listening to elders instead of the young punks. The preaching also sometimes mentioned the selfishness of the friends, because they possibly expected that they'd rule alongside Rehoboam. There was an imagined rude awakening when they learned that they would be under his iron rule as well. Lots of vibrant imaginations among IFB preachers.

I like your political insight into the story. Also your note on God's will. Since leaving the IFB, I've developed a better understanding of God's sovereignty. Calvinism was a bad word in my old church, but once I looked past the lies they told about it, I begrudgingly (at first) came to become a Calvinist myself. I was one before I was actually willing to admit it. As a result I can now see God's sovereignty throughout Bible stories better than I did before.

One story that sticks out to me now isn't an explicit story, per se, but it's the context surrounding Galatians. Paul is livid throughout the whole letter. I never noticed his white-hot anger before, but it's obvious now that I can read the thing as a whole instead of picking out verses, IFB style. Paul goes as far as to say that he wishes the circumcision party would just go the whole way and cut their dongle off. That's freaking intense. The best part is Paul's reason for anger: legalism. An abandonment of grace. All the things the IFB are guilty of. Studying Galatians was one of the things that affirmed my decision to leave the IFB was right. Understanding the story behind it makes it all the better.


Fresh perspectives on Bible stories - EnlightenedMK - 02-05-2018

The story of the prodigal son has probably been the most mind blowing for me. Especially when you look at it from the point that the prodigal returns to the father’s house and the father’s blessing while the older “obedient” son stays outside and refuses to enter. The focus in my fundy churches was always on the bad boy that ran away and disrespected his father. When Jesus’ point was on the older son and his lack of relationship with the father.


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RE: Fresh perspectives on Bible stories - WalrusWrangler - 02-05-2018

(02-05-2018, 03:08 PM)EnlightenedMK Wrote: The story of the prodigal son has probably been the most mind blowing for me. Especially when you look at it from the point that the prodigal returns to the father’s house and the father’s blessing while the older “obedient” son stays outside and refuses to enter. The focus in my fundy churches was always on the bad boy that ran away and disrespected his father. When Jesus’ point was on the older son and his lack of relationship with the father.


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The pastor of my old fundy church actually made the older brother out to be the good guy. He had a sermon he preached several times where the gist of it was, "Yes, sure, God is gracious enough to accept prodigals back. But the prodigal didn't have an inheritance. The older brother still had his. Be the older brother." But that totally misses the point.


Fresh perspectives on Bible stories - EnlightenedMK - 02-05-2018

(02-05-2018, 03:57 PM)WalrusWrangler Wrote:
(02-05-2018, 03:08 PM)EnlightenedMK Wrote: The story of the prodigal son has probably been the most mind blowing for me. Especially when you look at it from the point that the prodigal returns to the father’s house and the father’s blessing while the older “obedient” son stays outside and refuses to enter. The focus in my fundy churches was always on the bad boy that ran away and disrespected his father. When Jesus’ point was on the older son and his lack of relationship with the father.


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The pastor of my old fundy church actually made the older brother out to be the good guy. He had a sermon he preached several times where the gist of it was, "Yes, sure, God is gracious enough to accept prodigals back. But the prodigal didn't have an inheritance. The older brother still had his. Be the older brother." But that totally misses the point.


Exactly, that is how I had always heard it too! It was so mind blowing to me to realize that the “bad” guy in this story wasn’t the prodigal but the older brother.


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RE: Fresh perspectives on Bible stories - Workin' Mama - 02-05-2018

Quote:Paul goes as far as to say that he wishes the circumcision party would just go the whole way and cut their dongle off. That's freaking intense.

Bahahaha! I first read this during my lunch break, and I almost spit my half-chewed raw broccoli all over the rest of my lunch.

Quote:The best part is Paul's reason for anger: legalism. An abandonment of grace. All the things the IFB are guilty of.

Now I want to read Galatians. I've been avoiding Paul since leaving the IFB, because I find his comments about women so toxic and oppressive. But now that I'm gaining an appreciation for the Bible as a product of its time -- an account of people's experiences with God rather than a list of rules set in stone for all time -- perhaps I could begin to appreciate Paul in a fresh way, especially his wit and sarcasm.


RE: Fresh perspectives on Bible stories - Workin' Mama - 02-05-2018

(02-05-2018, 04:01 PM)EnlightenedMK Wrote:
(02-05-2018, 03:57 PM)WalrusWrangler Wrote: The pastor of my old fundy church actually made the older brother out to be the good guy. He had a sermon he preached several times where the gist of it was, "Yes, sure, God is gracious enough to accept prodigals back. But the prodigal didn't have an inheritance. The older brother still had his. Be the older brother." But that totally misses the point.


Exactly, that is how I had always heard it too! It was so mind blowing to me to realize that the “bad” guy in this story wasn’t the prodigal but the older brother.


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Wow! That's really sad, that someone could take a story about grace and twist it so severely!

I did hear IFB preachers comment on the fact that the prodigal son had still lost his inheritance even though he was welcomed home (which is definitely NOT Jesus' point), but I never heard anyone go so far as to make the older brother out to be the "good guy" or the one to emulate in the story. Perhaps it's really telling of the character of those preachers -- they are self-righteous hypocrites with no grace, so they are blind to these traits in the elder brother, and actually identify with him and lift him up as the good guy in the story.  It also shows that they value things (inheritance) and position(the righteous son in good standing) over people and relationships (the younger brother who was lost, and found again). It's fascinating, and sad, that they could take legalism that far.

Perhaps what influenced me the most in understanding the story of the prodigal son is the fact that it has always been one of my mother's favorite Bible stories. Despite fundamentalism, she always understood the concept of grace and practiced grace in raising us. For most of my life, I understood the story to be about grace and forgiveness that the father showed toward the younger son, with a warning tacked on to the end that we shouldn't be proud and cold-hearted, like the older brother.

After leaving the IFB, I see the grace in this story even more. Not only did the father show grace to the worldly, wayward son, but he also extended grace to the proud, self-righteous son, and tried to explain to him how much he loved them both. And I'm glad of that, because pride and self-righteousness are both things that I have been guilty of.

I really like your point, MK, about the older son's "lack of relationship" with the father. He didn't understand or practice grace, because he didn't understand the father's heart.


RE: Fresh perspectives on Bible stories - Dr. Jezebel - 02-07-2018

Proverbs 31 isn't about submission. It's about competence and ability. The translation of eshet chayil is less virtuous woman & more woman of valor, like a Valkyrie. Chayil is used elsewhere in Scripture to describe armies.

Even today, Jewish men sing this passage to their wives every Shabbat as a way of thanking them for all they contribute.


Fresh perspectives on Bible stories - EnlightenedMK - 02-07-2018

(02-07-2018, 09:54 AM)Dr. Jezebel Wrote: Proverbs 31 isn't about submission. It's about competence and ability. The translation of eshet chayil is less virtuous woman & more woman of valor, like a Valkyrie. Chayil is used elsewhere in Scripture to describe armies.

Even today, Jewish men sing this passage to their wives every Shabbat as a way of thanking them for all they contribute.


Yes this! My fundy Family and friends always freak out when I point out that Pr. 31 woman is a working mama!


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RE: Fresh perspectives on Bible stories - BASSENCO - 02-08-2018

The Rich Man and Lazarus. Gave me a lot of insights into Hell. The Rich Man, as Christ describes him, is actually a self-centered prick who is doing everything he can to to get Lazarus ejected from paradise. That is the point that Christ is making. Yes, he is suffering in Hell, but what is bothering him the most is that Lazarus is being comforted. I wrote a lot about it on my blog, so here is my shameless self referencing links:

http://jeriwho.net/lillypad2/?p=8011