02 January 2007

Are we using the Bible like a Magic Eight Ball?

When I was a kid (and sometimes as an adult, I'm afraid to admit) I would play this little game if I needed an answer to something. For example I'd grab a quarter, hold it in my hand, and say, "If she loves me, it's heads..." (That question was before I got married for the record). Then I'd flip it in air and if it came up heads, my life would somehow be complete - until I found out she didn't love me.

If it comes up tails, I'd say, "Okay, best out of 3..." and flip again.

It was my cheap Magic 8 Ball.

The improper use of hermeneutics seems to run rampant in human nature and I would blame the Western church but I have no idea if this problem is larger than American-me-first-consumerism, so I'll refrain.

In any case we can walk into our local Christian Bookstore or Wal-Mart, and find a plethora of resources to help you help Jesus help you. When we only take the blessing and forget the sacrifice, are we not turning the Bible into a Magic 8 Ball?

"Okay, best 2 verses out of 3..."

This guy (insert rich minister here) says if I do this and this and this, God will bless me!

"Okay, best 3 out of 5..."

Jabez says if I pray this prayer, I'll have everything I want.

"Okay, best 5 out of 7...it's baseball playoff season anyway and God loves baseball because God is an American."

I can have my best life now if I follow these simple steps.

"Okay, best 6 out of ten...because 10 is a complete number so Satan can't mess up my Magic 8 Ball Bible Verses."

God, how come you're not blessing me, my Magic 8 Bible said I would prosper in all things!

A tragedy happened in Denver on Jan 1st. It happens all the time, but when someone famous is the victim, it brings our fallen nature a bit more into the spotlight. Darrent Williams, starting cornerback for the Broncos was senselessly shot and killed. 24 years old.

When he was younger and getting mixed up in the wrong crowd his pastor told him to pray more and start a relationship with God. He did, got his life straight and wanted to go back this summer to teach other kids to do the same.

If I use the Magic 8 Ball theory, I guess he didn't read the right verses enough or didn't take the 12 step program to live a long life... or he didn't do the best 3 out of five.

When the Bible was written there were no verses. Nothing to pull out and claim, just the wonderful story of God and his people.

If we see the Bible as God's inspired story to us, then we can begin to walk with God as he walks with us, and we invite others to join in the journey along way, and the only ultimate promise we have is that God is with us through hell or high water and all the shit this life brings with it.

I'll take that over a Magic 8 Ball Bible Verse any day.


Makeesha said...

Really good stuff David. It's so true isn't it? Everything from prosperity to right wing republican american morality is hand picked from a verse within a chapter buried somewhere in the Bible - that way, the person can say "it's right there in the Bible". To be so reductionist misses the whole point entirely.

Danimal said...

I fear that this magic eight ball is the biggest scourge on the "Western" church at the moment. I hear some of the most heritical things from people who do profess a belief in a benevolant God (the opposite of the prosparity thing). I hear things like "God punished me with the flu because of (insert reason)," or "I had a bad relationship because I didn't love God more than my girlfriend, or we didn't pray enough together... or God forbid we didn't Court, but we dated."
Anyways, I feel we have created an idol of economic love, and missed Grace, and even forgot that the heros of the faith were fallen and needed grace, but God blessed them, just as he blessed us.

Makeesha said...

well said Dan

paul said...

to me it's about balance - sometimes with something like proverbs it is the way the world usually works - hence its wisdom on the other hand we all know times when it doesn't - if my faith is staked on a thing turning out the right way rather than on God it means that i can be pretty disappointed - after all those verses have an orgin in people following God in the good and the bad as you rightly say David :)

Jamie said...


Just poking around your blog. I LOVE this post. I just posted something along the same lines today. I'm so tired of this mentality. In my post I referred to it as using God like a gumball machine..pop in the right quarter--get the right answer.