Sunday Conversation: On Reading the Bible

I made this five minute video from a recent conversation I had with a high school guy. The conversation took place as a "chat" on Facebook. The only thing I removed were the names of certain people and places that the guy mentioned.

I haven't fooled myself into thinking this is a fantastic example of video creation/editing (the voices are VERY computerized), but I do think it's pretty great that I could go to, type in the text, and have this as the end result! I have included the full transcript below the video.


Me: Instead of embracing their humanity, plenty of people act like animals - giving in to every urge in any direction. Or they act like angels - keeping away from anything and everything the world has to offer. But God wants you to be a whole, mature, and complete human being. I believe that this is possible by following the way of Jesus Christ.

Student: Yeah, like I know about Jesus and stuff. It's just hard for me to get into a routine of reading the Bible every night. But I think I get what you mean...I just gotta be true to myself.

Me: Well that's not exactly what I'm saying; it's more nuanced than that. But forcing yourself to read the Bible every night and then heaping shame on yourself when you don't read it is probably counterproductive. What if you ask God to give you a vision for who you are, who you are becoming, and how your life can bring honor to him? Once you're involved in becoming that and doing that, the Bible takes on real significance and you won't have to force yourself to read it.

Student: Okay. Thanks for saying that, because it's hard trying to read it every night. I hate to say it but I'm always busy with something. To be honest, I don't understand what I'm reading anyway. So I don't make enough time for being alone and reading the Bible.

Me: Reading the Bible by yourself is a relatively new concept in the history of the church anyway. Prior to the 15th century there wasn't a printing press to produce books and Bibles like we have today. And literacy, which is the ability to read and write, didn't become widespread among the people until the Industrial Revolution in the middle of the 19th century. That's when books finally became affordable enough for the typical worker to own!

Student:  Well, then how did they do quiet times and that kind of stuff?

Me: They would gather together to share meals and stories, to pray, to hear someone (presumably the one person among them who could read), and to encourage one another to stay faithful to God.

Student: Yeah, that's good. Because, like,'s crazy what kind of stuff goes on at school. There's drugs, and there's sex, and there's cheating on tests, and more. It's ridiculous.

Me: What you have to remember is that everyone does whatever they do in an effort to maximize pleasure or minimize pain. That's an insight that Blaise Pascal made back in the 1600s. The problem is that most people's "pleasure-gauge" is skewed so badly that they're likely eating dirt and calling it a brownie. Or, as C.S. Lewis said, they settle for making mud pies in the slum because they can't imagine what it's like to have a holiday at the sea.

Student: Dang. Are you getting all this information from a book or something? Or do you just know it off the top of your head?

Me: Ha. Well, these days I just know it off the cuff. But it wasn't always that way! You see, most of the questions you're asking are the same questions that I once asked. Unfortunately no one ever talked about any of this stuff at most of the churches and other places I was at. So I had to dig around in books, and attend lectures, and ask lots of questions to lots of people.

Student: Oh wow. You know, I just wish that my youth pastor could make stuff more real. It feels like he makes it less real and less life-like. Does that make sense? It's always the same thing over and over again.

Me: I understand what you're saying and why you feel that way. But when no one is answering the questions you're asking, you've got to turn to books to help you find the answers. There's one thing you can be sure of: somebody somewhere has had that same question!

Student: Alright, I'll start doing that because I want to learn more about what we believe and why we believe it. Also how it's different from what other people believe. But instead it's always, "Get saved! Bring a friend!" and all that. I'm thinking, "Hello would you please explain what the Bible is trying to say and what I'm supposed to do about it?!"

Me: If you're not alone in thinking like that, then I guess that could be one reason why so many people leave for college and walk away from the church...and ultimately the Christian faith.

Student: Yeah, that sounds right to me. The stuff we hear is so shallow and fake that we have no idea what a Christian person in college and in life is supposed to be like, or how our faith really matters for anything.

Me: Hmmm. I think the gospel of Mark shows what it's like: it's a hard journey of losing yourself to find yourself. And, if you want to embark on that journey then Jesus is the person you need to be following (like I said at the start of the conversation).

Student: I'm glad we talked. But I've got to go to bed because I've got school tomorrow. Thanks for answering all questions! I'll see you on Sunday!

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