Eyeglasses for Everything1
not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”
Dear Harvest Family,
In keeping with my role as Pastor of Counseling and Pastoral Care, starting this Sunday I plan to use my occasional preaching opportunities this year to address common problems in living. To be sure, the method will be to exposit a passage of Scripture, but the focus will be to connect the riches of Christ to a specific reality of life.
Perhaps my good intentions raise for you lots of good questions: Does the Bible speak to the issue of obsessive-compulsive disorder? Of procrastination? Of run-of-the-mill stress? Of parenting teenagers? Of addiction? Of fits of anger? Of bouts with depression? Of marital turmoil? Of rising tides of anxiety? Of binge shopping? Of mid-life crisis? Of human suffering? Of . . . you name it? These are important questions, for these are just a few of the realities of life—yours, mine, and your next-door neighbor’s. How would you respond? Your answer will depend on how you answer another very important question: What is the Bible?
Many Christians view the Bible as if it were an “encyclopedia”—that is, a catalog of articles they assume as having a one-to-one correspondence with every conceivable struggle they might face. Historically, however, Reformed theologians have approached the Bible very differently, taking it up as if it were a pair of “eyeglasses.” Indeed, it was John Calvin who famously employed the metaphor of “spectacles” to underscore our need of Scripture to make proper sense of anything and everything we observe in creation (cf. Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion I.v.i.1).
“Encyclopedia” or “Eyeglasses”? Do you see the difference and the implications? Again, consider any one of life’s challenges. If you adopt the Bible-as-encyclopedia, then you will likely comb through the topical index in the back of your Bible, looking for a specific match, so that you can turn to the corresponding chapter and verse. But what if you don’t find the match you’re looking for? What if “codependency” or “perfectionism” is not listed in the index? You might be tempted to conclude, as many do, “The Bible is an insufficient source for explaining and addressing life beyond Sunday morning; I need to look to some other authority for answers.”
By adopting the Bible-as-eyeglasses, we are beginning with very different assumptions. We believe that Scripture is the authoritative, necessary, and sufficient “lens” for explaining and addressing the human condition: authoritative, because Scripture gives us God’s point of view; necessary, because God’s take on people is nowhere else to be found; and sufficient, because God’s gaze gives us a basic orientation that is comprehensive enough to approach, to make sense of, and to apply Christ’s redemption to any and every problem we face.
This perspective raises still more good questions, and these we will tackle in due course. But make no mistake: Curing and caring for souls is what the church is about, and the Bible gives us the goods to fulfill our calling. With the psalmist, we say, “The unfolding of your words gives light” (Psalm 119:130). So together we cry out, “Lord, make us wise and skilled for this messy but glorious task of connecting the riches of Christ to the realities of life.”
Yours in Christ,
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