in an old testament class in seminary, we spent nearly two months talking through and studying just the first two chapters of genesis. seemingly straightforward, the multiple version of the story (yes, versions plural) told in those chapters are a poetic way to describe a complex history of all created things.
that class was the first time in my life that i began to get a clear understanding of the historical, cultural and literary context of the opening scenes of genesis.
simply put, it’s when it became ultimately clear to me that there is no possibility of a literal understanding of the creation story.
if, over the last couple days, you were to take a peek at the theological social media circles i run in, you’d be hard-pressed to miss the stunning story that matthew paul turner shared on his blog. delivered in 2 parts (part 1 and part 2), he shared the story of a guy named andrew who, until recently, was a member of mark driscoll’s mars hill church in seattle. you can read turner’s posts to get the full story, but in essence, this guy became subject to church discipline for confessing to sleeping with his fiancée and for having an inappropriate (platonic) relationship with another girl.
unless you’ve been hiding from the internet over the last 24 hours (or you don’t give a rat’s about this type of story), you’ve probably watched or seen reference to a new video of mark driscoll (and yes, that website is real life…) preaching at mars hill.
in a nutshell, our favorite protector of truth and all around swell guy, pastor mark, informs his congregation, his legions of devoted followers and the rest of the world (thanks to something we call the interwebs) that all this “god is love” talk is a bunch of hooey. yes, i (and, apparently he) realizes that 1 john 4:8 literally says that, but it obviously can’t be trusted because it sounds like that hippy, limp-wristed jesus that you keep hearing about.
quite a few years ago, i attended a seminar led by tony jones in which he discussed the blurred lines between what we label as sacred and secular. at that point in my faith journey, i had a particularly difficult time buying in to his fundamental thesis. my way of thinking about and engaging god was far too dichotomous. either/or was much more appealing than both/and. even more than that, i feared a worldview where decision-making couldn’t necessarily be eased by the label “christian”.
what’s the most common phrase in the bible?
[insert annoying jeopardy music]
[sorry, there's no prize except the pride of winning…]
[well, we could probably arrange for an awkward side hug…]
[stringing this out way too long…]
people are often surprised to learn that “fear not” (or “do not fear” or some other iteration) is, in fact, the most common phrase in the bible. with nearly 400 uses, it appears far more than any other phrase throughout scripture.
the question, naturally, is why that is so common.