The Rival “Text” in Reading Scripture: the “Holy Self”

EatthisBook-EPetersonI am continuing to read Eugene H. Peterson’s book Eat This Book: A Conversation in the Art of Spiritual Reading (Eerdmans, 2006), and it was part of my Sunday reading yesterday.  As I make my way through this intriguing book, I find myself at times totally frustrated with the author’s thoughts and at times wonderfully pleased with his thoughts. Far better it is to leave you with a quote with which I was pleased than with one with which I was frustrated. So today I take a passage from the third chapter, “Scripture as Text: Learning What God Reveals”.

In the context Peterson has been talking about how there is a rival “god” in our day that consumes our culture, dominates our lives even as Christians, and affects how we read the Bible. He calls it “the new Holy Trinity”, the “sovereign self expresses itself in Holy Needs, Holy Wants, and Holy Feelings” (p.32). This section is powerfully insightful and convicting. Toward the end of this chapter he writes this:

What has become devastatingly clear in our day is that the core reality of the Christian community, the sovereignty of God revealing himself in three persons, is contested and undermined by virtually everything we learn in our schooling, everything presented to us in the media, every social, workplace, and political expectation directed our way as the experts assure us of the sovereignty of self. These voices seem so perfectly tuned to us, so authoritatively expressed and custom-designed to show us how to live out our sovereign selves, that we are hardly aware that we have traded in our Holy Bibles for this new text, the Holy Self. And don’t we still attend Bible studies and read our assigned verse or chapter each day? As we are relentlessly encouraged to consult our needs and dreams and preferences, we hardly notice the shift from what we have so long professed to believe.

The danger of installing the self as the authoritative text for living, at the same time that we are honoring the Holy Scriptures by giving them a prominent place on the shelf, is both enormous and insidious. None of us is immune to the danger.

That is why it is so urgent to revive the strong angel’s command to St. John (“Eat this book”, Rev.10:9-10 -cjt). If we want to keep our identity, if we want a text to live by that keeps us in the company of Gods people, keeps us conversant with who he is and the way he works, we simply must eat this book (pp.33-34).

Good food for thought on this Monday. As we diligently read our Bibles and devour God’s light and truth, let us remember that God’s text is sovereign, not our puny self. May we hear Him and not our own voice.

“The Seven Deadly Fears” – October “Tabletalk”

Fear of Death and Disease by Robert Rothwell | Reformed Theology Articles at

TTOct2013The October issue of Tabletalk has now been opened a week and it is time to introduce this latest one. The theme this month is “The Seven Deadly Fears”, introduced by editor Burk Parsons in his article “All My Fears Relieved”. Here is part of his explanation for this theme:

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, the Proverbs tell us, and the fear of the Lord is the beginning of the end of all other fears. For us as sons of God, to fear God means to humbly trust Him and helplessly tremble before Him with reverence and awe, love and gratitude (Ps. 147:112 Cor. 7:15Heb. 12:28). Although most fear is deadly, the fear of the Lord is life. The fears we experience in this life are countless and complex. And while we have chosen to address seven deadly fears, there are innumerably more that each of us experience every day of our lives. For it’s not only that we experience fears from things outside of us, but that we experience fears from things within us, as Martin Luther admitted: “I more fear what is within me than what comes from without.”

Fear often takes the form of anxiety when we worry about things that might happen to us, but it also takes the form of anxiety when we worry about things that have already happened to us. We fear not only the fiery darts that come from the hand of our Enemy, but we fear the fiery darts our hearts sometimes shoot at themselves. What’s more, we sometimes worry about our proclivity to worry, and we find ourselves fearing our worst fears coming true. We fear and we worry when we try to play God and act as if we are sovereignly in control of our lives. It’s only when we trust God and daily recognize and surrender to His sovereign control that we know we are rightly fearing God as the sovereign God He is.

Robert Rothwell, associate editor of “TT”, wrote the first feature article on these seven fears, which is the one I have linked above. Having faced cancer four years ago, he knows well the “fear of death and disease”. But as a Reformed Christian, he also knows well the gospel of sovereign grace that alone can calm our fears. This is part of what he wrote (You will find the rest at the Ligonier link above):

In many ways, it’s right to fear death and suffering. Since God made the universe “very good” (Gen. 1:1–2:4), death and disease are intruders. They’re here because of sin, and they’ll be gone in the new heavens and earth. Until then, however, we must live with our fear of death and disease. How can we glorify God in so doing?

I can’t give all the answers, but I hope to offer some help. First, we should know why we fear death and disease. If you fear death because you are not reconciled to God, then you must be reconciled today by trusting in Christ alone. In so trusting, you will stand clothed in Jesus’ perfect righteousness before the Judge of all and He will welcome you into His kingdom. He has promised to give eternal life to all who believe in Jesus.

Second, admit your fears to God and others. I don’t know all the reasons why the Lord allows us to suffer. I do know that He uses our pain to conform us to Christ. Confessing our fears gives people the opportunity to pray for us and encourage us to keep our eyes on Jesus, not our disease. It allows us to bear one another’s burdens and fulfill the law of Christ (Gal. 6:2).

The daily devotions continue in the book of Ezekiel, as “TT” makes it way through the OT prophets this year. For subscription information, visit the “TT” page at the Ligonier website.