Perspective as Spiritually forming?


Those who read the Bible from a spiritualizing, other worldly perspective will have a spiritualizing, other worldly faith and go to spiritualizing, other worldly churches.

Those who read the Bible from a prosperity-promising, greed-promoting, materialistic perspective will have a prosperity-seeking, greed-satisfying faith and go to prosperity-baiting, greed manipulating churches.

Those who read the Bible from an individualistic, self-actualizing, autonomous-spirituality perspective will have a privatistic, personally tailored, egocentric faith and go – if they so choose to go – to ego-oriented, individualistic, self-fulfilling churches.

Those who read the Bible from a patriotic, nationalistic, “God Bless My Country” perspective will have a security-based, trust in armaments and military as God’s way of making us “the possessors of might and the heirs of what is right” and will go to a church where they and the Christ they follow recognize Caesar’s prior claims to our sons and daughters when we are threatened.

Those who read the Bible from an Old Testament prophets perspective, like Micah, Joel, Amos, and Isaiah and from the perspective of the Jesus of the Gospels will have great difficulty reconciling their faith with other-worldly spirituality, materialistic, individual fulfillment, nationalistic, rationalized perspectives and find themselves outside the mainstream of Christianity as dissident disciples and go to a church where discipleship to Christ is valued above spirituality, prosperity, security, or success – or will try fruitlessly to find such a church.

David Augsburger, Dissident Discipleship: A Spirituality of Self-Surrender, Love of God, and Love of Neighbor. 133.


Sometimes we come to the Bible looking for something.  Sometimes we bring our cultural or personal baggage with us, looking for and justifying a particular spirituality that operates within the realm of what we want out of a divine relationship.  Those perspectives and hopes bring us dangerously into the realm of idolatry.  We end up worshipping the part of ourselves that seeks to quench our anxieties, fulfill our desires or fall softly into the comfortable status quo of culture.

Those perspectives, whatever they are, however we bring them to the text, are spirituality formative.  The question becomes, do we become formed by a god we create, or Jesus.

What perspectives do you bring when you read the Bible?  Which of the above perspectives do you find in your particular context?


  1. Robert Martin · January 8, 2013

    Nice… playing devil’s advocate, who is to say that the prophetic, Jesus-centered perspective is the “right” one? I personally think it’s the most biblically consistent but there are those who would argue otherwise

    • Chris Lenshyn · January 8, 2013

      Yes, that is a good point. In principle however, no matter what we see as biblically consistent, perspective has a formative element. It is the lens by which we interpret scripture to a certain extent. In this sense I find communal reading and interpretation of scripture to be most important. Community has the potential to let us know if we are off our rocker!!

      • Robert Martin · January 8, 2013

        Okay…more push back…and this is not devil’s advocate but a very real danger.

        While reading Scripture in community is excellent, one must also engage a wider community. We tend to gather like-to-like and so end up, instead of having our bad ideas checked, end up getting them reinforced by like thinkers. This happens a LOT in the political polarization of US electoral politics…and it happens to the same extreme at the church congregational and denominational levels. Many of those perspectives mentioned in the quoe, while they apply to the individual, tend to be reinforced by that individuals chosen community.

      • Chris Lenshyn · January 9, 2013

        Yes! It is a prompt question then to ask, how do communities avoid this? How do communities engage a wider community in a significant way?

      • Robert Martin · January 10, 2013

        I forget who said it, I think it was Leslie Newbigin, but it takes an active engagement and a posture of listening to “other”. We MUST be willing to listen to “other”, and that means not just patronizing and going through the motions, but taking that step of humility and setting aside our own pet theories and ideas and genuinely listening. It may mean that it reinforces our own ideas or it may mean that we hone our ideas to a sharper clarity or it may mean that our ideas get transformed to engage a new way of looking that we didn’t previously consider.

        It starts with humility towards “other”..and that then implies actively seeking “other”. If you don’t agree with Roman Catholics, perhaps you should seek out Roman Catholics to converse with. If you don’t agree with Anabaptists, perhaps you need to hang out with more Mennonites to find out what they think. It takes active engagement. Talking with an RC or a Mennonite or a Presbyterian doesn’t imply you agree with them, it implies that you love them and wish to hear what they have to say.

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