Saturday evening session began with a half-hour of singing worship songs. Most I didn’t recognise, but one advantage of singing everything two or three times is you soon catch on. Took a while for me to connect – it’s a couple of years since we were at this kind of event. Had the frequent internal discussion about emotional songs in worship. Decided (as I often have before) that it’s only a problem if there’s no relationship with Jesus behind it. After all, many Salvation Army songs speak of our passion against our sin and in search of God. Am now free to engage in the worship or quietly pray whilst others sing.
Short prayer introduced Mike Breen, main speaker for the week. The organised church took the Bible away from the people and gave it to the priests. The Reformation restored it through translations into everyday language. Breen argues that the Enlightenment, with it’s emphasis on rational thought, took the Bible away into the hands of scholars and theologians, who debate the authenticity and meaning of small portions of the text taken out of context.
Breen sees his mission as bringing the Bible back to ordinary people by highlighting the big themes and showing how they appear repeatedly throughout Old and New Testaments. I’m not entirely convinced of his argument. I can’t deny that most Christians I’ve met don’t really understand the big picture. But that’s probably a practical outcome of reduced Bible study and increased materialism, rather than any conspiracy by scholars.
Breen identified two main themes – his double helix of DNA – in Relationship and Responsibility. He defined them as Being one with God and Doing Good on behalf of God. (by that he meant in the sense of “let us spur one another on to love and good deeds”. He wasn’t arguing for salvation by works).
He then renamed his themes as Covenant and Kingdom – emphasising that God is a part of both. He then identified the Synoptic Gospels (Matt, Mark and Luke) as focusing on Kingdom and John as demonstrating Covenant.
I can’t argue with the themes he identified. Whether they are the sum total of Biblical theology I’m not sure; they are good handles for mission, like The Salvation Army’s old strapline “with Heart to God and Hand to Man”. Anyway, in main sessions later in the week, Breen will track these themes though Scripture to demonstrate the integrity of God’s word. I must admit I’m looking forward to these messages.