Wednesday, November 12, 2008


Sometimes I get real tired of introductions.

I'm nearly to the home stretch of my graduate school career.  I remember attending my first class and thinking about how long a road was ahead of me.  Now as I look back I can't remember where the time went.  One reason things have moved so quickly is the fact that I didn't follow a traditional class schedule.  I have been working with a cohort of ten other students.  Our class has stayed together, taking one class at a time while every three to five weeks a new professor shows up for the next course.  Naturally, each new professor wants us to introduce ourselves. 

If I have to explain what kind of ice cream I would be if I were ice cream I'm going to start hating ice cream. 

I get tired of introductions, and I get tired of listening to people I already know introduce themselve.  Maybe this is why I have a habit of skipping the introduction sections when I read the Bible.

"Paul, a servant of God and.." blah blah blah.  I know, Paul is an apostle, he's an important guy, I've heard this before.  Can't I just skip to the actual content of the letter?

As I sat down to outline Paul's letter to Titus, I started to do just that.  I left a blank spot for the chunk on Paul's greeting and went about filling in the outline for everything else.  When I looked back I saw that blank spot and it was a little annoying so I decided I better put something in there.

I'm glad I did.

In his introduction, Paul not only identifies himself, but he explains what he is doing.  As I read the introduction, I came up with this diagram

Do you see something circular about Paul's introduction?  Everything Paul is and does is based on what was given to him.  What's really cool is that this introduction actually acts as a sort of outline for the rest of the letter.  Paul will go on to explain the character that is necessary for a leader in the church, how this character is used to build up the church, and finally how this character is actually a gift that was first given to them.

As tired as I am of introductions, I cannot deny their importance.  The next time you start to read a book of the Bible, consider the introduction.  Consider why this book was written, and who the particular writer was. 

Even in the most unlikely places, God's word always speaks volumes.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Keep Reading

You really miss a lot when you don't keep reading. Last year Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy received an extra burst of publicity as the movie adaptation of the first novel hit theatres. The books have some controversial subject matter due to their take on Christianity, but that's not the main point I want to get at, plenty of others have already written volumes. What really grabbed me was the difference between the movie and the novel.

Warning: If you haven't read The Golden Compass you're going to receive some spoilers.

The scriptwriters for the movie apparently decided to stop reading. That or they read the whole book and decided not to share the ending for whatever reason (my guess is because it is pretty shocking). The movie ends shortly after a climactic battle in the Arctic where the main character Lyra is able to break her best friend, Roger, out of a facility where the bad guys are experimenting on children. The final shot consists of the two of them flying off in search of Lord Asriel, anticipating the adventures that are coming next. There is a slight sense of foreboding, but overall it's a happy ending.

The book does not stop there. Lyra and Roger catch up to Lord Asriel, Lyra's father. In the movie he is portrayed as a wise and heroic man who can be a little harsh at times. The book portrays him as a man that will let nothing stand is his way. He wants to open a portal to another world, but this requires energy. Apparently the only thing that will create enough energy is the separation of a human from their daemon, or animal spirit partner. Of course, this means you kill the person. Lord Asriel certainly can't kill himself, and since he's such a good father he spares Lyra and promptly kills Roger, an eleven year old boy. The portal opens, and the last scene is Lyra leaving her world, scared, brokenhearted, and completely clueless as to what will come next.

When I first read that all I could think was WOW! Had they put that in the movie they really would have ticked off some people. As I stated earlier, you really miss a lot when you don't read the whole book. Now I have to ask, "why do we do that with the Bible?"

Be honest, we've all done it. We open our Bible. We find a verse we like. We read it, memorize it, and then we stop reading! Why? The biblical authors didn't write verses, they wrote books or letters. If we don't read these in their entirety, we really miss what's going on.

The book of Titus is a perfect example. Paul goes at this book in a sort of backwards manner. Usually he starts with a theological foundation, then gives exhortations based on the theology he has just outlined. Romans is probably the ultimate example of this. However Titus is different. Here Paul starts with exhortations (another word would be instructions) and then moves into theological reasons for doing what he says. The book can really be summed up by saying "do these things, live this way because of what Christ has done for you." If we simply read the instructions and then stop, we miss the point of the book. We really can't do any of the things until we understand what Christ has done for us!

In my next few posts I want to take a deeper look at this letter. If you want to really follow what I'm writing about, you need to read the whole book of Titus. It's only three chapters long, so it won't take a lot of time. Notice how the whole letter works together, developing its main themes. As I explore the book, evaluate my thoughts to make sure they fit with the themes of the letter and the Bible as a whole.

Wait, did I just mention the entire Bible? Better keep reading!