How to Study the Bible: Context according to Richard Beck

biblepage-781x1024It’s amazing how our reading of the Scriptures is colored by our own prejudices and background.

Richard Beck, at “Experimental Theology,” offers a reading of James’ famous passage on faith and works that I’d never heard before. But he just might be
right …

What do you think?

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About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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6 Responses to How to Study the Bible: Context according to Richard Beck

  1. Mark says:

    Beck makes a very good point. However, James wrote that believers must not show favoritism. I believe that (showing favoritism) has been one major cause of so many people leaving churches these days. Having faith but showing favoritism should be preached against, but I don’t recall it being done.

  2. Mark says:

    Pirkei Avot 3:9: He whose good deeds exceed his wisdom, his wisdom will endure. But he whose wisdom exceeds his good deeds, his wisdom will not endure.

    Pirkei Avot 6:9: When a person departs from this world, neither his silver, nor gold, nor precious stones nor pearls accompany him; only his Torah and good deeds.

    Pirkei Avot 2:12 Let all your deeds be for the sake of Heaven.

    Deeds sure get mentioned a lot.

  3. Beck certainly takes this text away from the usual way of using it – and does so decisively. Context is king when it comes to hermeneutics – and RB certainly clearly shows the context that shows James is not providing amunition to use against the Baptists in arguing for a faith + works view of baptism and salvation. Rather, he is saying we must live as Jesus did.

  4. Rose Marie says:

    I am currently reading “To Kill a Mockingbird.” This is the result of a long journey looking at race in literature and history in the U.S. I saw the movie decades ago and thought I knew the book. The theme of that novel is how the Southern mindset was to keep blacks in some lesser status that was necessary in white thinking to uphold their religious and social standing. This chapter in James 2 would not have moved them in 1962 when the book was published. I know because I was there and could not quite grasp what the hate was all about. I just knew that Jesus wouldn’t approve. Hopefully now James 2 can move the mind of all Christians whether white or black to quit giving preferential treatment. Our nation is long overdue to reform our thinking about and treatment of others.

  5. John F says:

    Jesus has said, “The poor you will always have with you. Does that mean we should not have compassion? Of course not, but Jesus is right nonetheless. How to express compassion in this light is the challenge we face. There are some who choose (voluntarily or not) to live off the efforts of others. Such “voluntary” poor we should teach “to work with their own hands” etc. Sadly, we have allowed gov’t. to supplant the church. I have personally cleaned the church landscaping when those given food threw it away in the bushes, and been cursed at when I did not “give” as much as expected; I have great respect for those who deal with these issues, needing the wisdom of Solomon to decide when not to “cast pearls before swine.”

    When faced with needs, we can be callous or compassionate. How to be truly compassionate and not enabling?

  6. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    John F,

    We often read Jesus out of the context of the Torah. Here’s the passage he was quoting —

    (Deu 15:11 ESV) 11 For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’

    I do agree that we must not be enablers. God expects us to work to earn our living — if we can. Paul is very clear on this point.

    You asked,

    “How to be truly compassionate and not enabling?”

    I think the answer is to be in community with the poor. When we get to know them as people, not as a mission or a cause, we can then wisely discern what is best for them. But treating the “poor” as a faceless class for which we earn attaboys by sending money won’t work. There is no substitute for getting to know the people we serve.

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