Taste and See (But don't fill up on bread)

Do Evangelicals actually love the Bible as much as we say we do?

Over the summer, I’m trying to do less, point you to other work I’ve written online. A few weeks ago, I wrote an article for Evangelicals Now. Here’s how it begins:

We all thought there were four but actually there are five. Not Gospels, but tastes. There’s sweetness, sourness, saltiness and bitterness. And the fifth is umami, the Pete Best of the culinary world that was there from the beginning. Umami is a meaty, broth-like, or savoury taste.

What’s your favourite taste? For me, there’s nothing better than a juicy ripe sliced tomato with olive oil, salt, red onion and basil, accompanying a medium-rare T-bone steak with some twice-cooked chips. And mustard mayo. There’s a restaurant in Stellenbosch in South Africa which did that to perfection. One day, I hope to return there for that transcendent experience.

A meal may be there to nourish, but we prepare it in a way that is to be experienced and enjoyed. Even in the centuries when the Bible was written, and food was frequently scarce, there was time and produce set aside for feasting. It may be interesting to have a meal explained scientifically, and that has its place. But someone who only relates to food on a nutritional or biological basis is missing out on the joy of food.

I Challenge Thee To A Huel

Is there anything more sad than Huel? It’s a heavily marketed food substitute which implies truly awful things about our society today. Huel’s promotional material says it’s a good swap for lunch (no, it isn’t), providing ‘all the carbs, protein, fibre, fats and 26 vitamins and minerals you need from a meal. Plus, save time on meal prep. From only £1.32 per serving’. Tempted? Me neither. If I’m eating Huel, I’m assuming that something, somewhere has gone wrong.

I presume the name ‘Huel’ is meant to sound like ‘fuel’. This is something that charges you up so that you can be productive. But given Huel’s black and off-white marketing and that it’s essentially a powder to which you add water, I can’t get away from the fact that ‘Huel’ sounds like ‘gruel’.

Do we see Scripture this way? This may be a surprising analogy for evangelicals who are serious about the Bible. But are we in danger of explaining or using the Bible rather than delighting in it – and God?

Be productive

Let’s take Huel as a parallel. You’re a Christian. And you want to be faithful and productive, building the kingdom of God. Great. Are you mostly using the Bible as a fuel source? You read Scripture a few times a week for your regular top up of wisdom, motivation and repentance so that you can go out there and get on with the job. Reading Scripture has become a habit – and it’s a really good habit. But is it food for your soul? Or just a necessary pit stop?

The Gospels are littered with people who saw the Scriptures in this functional fuel-like way. They were productive, observant, religious people. Some were influential. Some were popular. They knew the Scriptures off by heart. They had it tied around their arms and strapped to their heads. But it hadn’t made its way to their hearts.

These were the people who tried to trap Jesus in contradictions and absurd hypotheticals, like a widow married to seven brothers in turn. The most charitable version of this incident (in Mark 12:18-27) is to see them pursuing these idiotic scenarios as thought experiments in all seriousness, face-to-face with the incarnate God who stood before them.

The alternative is that they are mocking Jesus with these scenarios. This is quite likely as they are Sadducees asking about a resurrection that they don’t believe in. We are told some mocked and sneered while Jesus was gasping for breath whilst nailed to a cross, so the shoe fits.

It is easy to demonise this group, as if we could never be a part of it. But let’s not be too hasty. What were these Sadducees, Pharisees and teachers of the law missing in their approach to Scripture? Joy. Delight. Wonder. They would have known Psalm 34:8 which famously says: Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! (Ps. 34:8).

Taste and See

They were not tasting or seeing the goodness of the Lord. They were using Scripture in their own mission for their own ends. It sounded like jealousy for the name of God, but their hard hearts and their crucifixion of Christ shows how wrong their motives and priorities were.

Are evangelicals, those who claim to be most serious about Scripture, in danger of doing just that? Using Scripture for our mission rather than delighting in it? Do we use it as fuel for our mission, rather than revelling in the stories, the poetry and the One who caused it to be written, who entered human history so that we could delight in Him?

For answers to these excellent questions (if I do say so myself), read the rest of the article over here at Evangelicals Now.

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