Let the Bible Speak

In case you don't know my religious background, I am a Christian who believes the Bible is absolutely (said qualitatively, not for emphasis) true in its testimony about itself, its general message of salvation, and its particular applications. I consider it an authoritative source of information and instruction in all the places that it claims authority. Even more, I believe the Bible contains the revelation of God to man. To top it all off, I actually enjoy reading it and thinking about it!

My meditations on the Bible have lately centered around the topic of this post... letting the Bible speak for itself. What I mean is this... I study the Bible from within a theological tradition. I have a certain understanding of the unifying story of the Bible. I can recognize themes and appreciate the unity of diverse stories and narratives. I can even write about specific passages and model what I'm thinking as I look for contextual and historical clues for interpretation and application. You can find a few examples of this in the Bible category on this site.

And there's the segue... Categories. I have categories for passages in Scripture much like I have categories on this site. And these are the real topic of this post. Because of my theological tradition and formulation, I have categories for understanding various passages and verses in the Bible. I might say John 1:1ff. is a passage about the pre-existence and divinity of Jesus and John 14:6 is a verse about the exclusivity of the gospel. But my categories have come from my reading of other Scriptures and have been reinforced and/or emphasized by my broader theological background.

By way of illustration... I didn't have categories for posts on this site when I first opened it. However, now that I've been adding categories as I write, I tend to reuse existing categories before making new ones. This post might more appropriately be tagged Hermeneutics, but I stick with Bible because it's there. So with Bible study... we don't start reading our Bibles with a whole list of categories, but as we study it in the context of a church and alongside other books and commentaries, our thoughts start to follow familiar paths when we approach different passages. We develop categories for making sense of the text.

I don't think this is inherently wrong. We need to categorize information in large data sets to make sense of the whole. However, once categorized, a piece of information should still be able to speak for itself. We don't have all the right categories, and we might prioritize them differently than the Bible itself does. Furthermore, our categories can silence passages that don't fall into our majority categories. So, if we know 15 passages discussing assurance and perseverance in the faith, we might grant that category or theme a majority influence as we read the Scriptures. This in turn might lead us to marginalize or massage our interpretation of passages that warn against falling away.

As I think about how I'm interpreting the Scriptures, I want to be sure that my subconscious categorization doesn't keep the text from speaking for itself. I hope to do this by developing an awareness of how I am categorizing passages and themes, intentionally examining the Scriptures as though I might be missing something, and letting the Bible speak in areas where I might be silencing it by my "categorical majorities." I encourage you to do the same.

Late Nights and Site Updates

This week has been crazy. It's included several late nights hacking on four Ubercart modules that I developed as a Commerce Guy through a community funded project. More on those later. The week also involved my first all-nighter in over five years. I thought I left those behind with my undergrad studies, but apparently I'm still just as much of a procrastinator! Tongue (Getting the flu the last two weeks of class sure didn't help.)

I had to stay up all night Thursday and work till about 5 PM on Friday to finish a research paper (to be posted) and final exam for my class on the Doctrine of the Person of Christ. I'm pleased with the results, but I really wish I'd been disciplined to finish the paper sooner so I could have more time to mull it over and revise. I'll let it sit for a while and then touch it up to post it online. Basically, it's a short paper dealing with the Son of Man sayings in the Gospel of Matthew. I've been intrigued by the topic for some time now and have thoroughly enjoyed my recent studies on the topic. The gist of it is Jesus uses the title to establish a new framework for understanding the Messiah against the popular framework of his day. The Son of Man combines the figures of the suffering Servant of the Lord from Isaiah 42-61 with the exalted Son of Man figure of Daniel 7 into a single person.

Anyways, despite staying up all night Thursday, I still stayed up till about 1 AM on Friday evening working on my websites. I've had a VPS (web server) at Slicehost for some time now but had never migrated my personal sites onto it. So, I buckled down Thursday evening while waiting for my step-dad to get here and got to work. I managed to get a couple of sites up and running, the Szrama Clan website and The Wingfeather Wiki. I still need to migrate this site and a friend's site, and then all my eggs should be in one basket again.

I'm really excited about the two sites I did manage to get live. The first is a simple collaboration site for Christina and I where we previously shared about our engagement and marriage. However, it's been given a fresh paint job (notice the theme of my weekend?) in honor of our daughter (in utero). We'll hopefully populate it with pictures of both the ultrasound and Top Porch in short order.

The other site is a Wingfeather Saga fan site. It represents my first real personal attempt to use Drupal for social publishing. I've never done a fan site before, but I love Andrew's writing and am happy to promote it. Hopefully some other fans come on board and pitch in! Are you one? Register your account today. Cool

And so, sleep deprived and with plenty of work still to do this weekend, I now close this blog post at 3 AM. I have much more to do and plenty to write about, but I fear even I must sleep a little every now and then. Until next time...

New Book Search Module for Drupal 6 Released

I just released the <a href="http://drupal.org/project/book_search">Book Search</a> module for Drupal 6. I already told my wife how excited I was about the project, as everything fell into place quickly and effectively. I'm one of those oddballs who views his coding as an art, and I love the sense of accomplishment that I get from turning a blank file into a well-styled, commented, feature complete module all in one sitting.

The module adds a book search tab to the search form and allows your users to perform simple keyword searches through specific books on your site. As an administrator, you decide which books should be available for search through the book search form, and the user can specify to search any of these books or a select few. The module also defines a book search block that appears when users are view pages from searchable books. The form redirects to the book search form upon submission.

One enhancement over the core advanced content search is the fact that I'm persisting the book search options between searches. The core advanced content search turns your parameters into special keywords that then persist in the actual search keywords textfield. Huh? What gives? This module will simply set the defaults for the book search options based on the path and remove them from the keywords in the search keywords textfield. Perhaps this has already been fixed for D7, but if not, someone should prod me until I submit a patch for that.

From conception to release, Book Search took about 3.25 hours, keeping me above my target 100 lines of code per hour. I can't say with absolute certainty, but I'm sure the Mountain Dew I had over lunch before diving into the code had something to do with the speedy development. <img src="http://www.bywombats.com/sites/all/modules/smileys/packs/example/wink.png" alt="Wink" />

The module was developed for a friend and client named <a href="http://www.billmounce.com">Bill Mounce</a> who operates <a href="http://www.biblicaltraining.org">Biblical Training</a>, a website that offers free seminary level courses online from some of my favorite Evangelical teachers and preachers. He'll also get use out of the module on <a href="http://www.kidsgreek.com">Kids' Greek</a>, where he's developing online curriculum to teach biblical Greek (targeted at kids and homeschoolers, but obviously awesome for everyone). Bill chaired the translation of the New Testament in the <a href="http://www.esv.org/">English Standard Version</a> of the Bible, and he keeps an <a href="http://www.billmounce.com/blog">awesome blog</a> that discusses various issues in translation (both academic and practical) and Christian ministry. I highly recommend it!

I love it when my work and personal life interests collide. I hope others get some good use out of the result, as well! <img src="http://www.bywombats.com/sites/all/modules/smileys/packs/example/cool.png" alt="Cool" />

Stega-Sunday

It's unseasonably warm here in Louisville, which is very nice since my front yard has been a solid sheet of ice for a week and a half. It made getting down the steps and to the car quite a treacherous exercise! After church, I sat down and thoroughly enjoyed another chapter in The Preexistent Son by Simon Gathercole, a book that looks at evidence in the Bible books Matthew, Mark, and Luke indicating the authors understood Jesus to have an existence prior to his incarnation. I've actually really enjoyed the book, even if I didn't know it was such a hotly debated issue! Tongue

Anyways, afterward Christina and I headed out to the park for a walk. Today was the first "warm" day in a while, so I finally got a chance to sport the short-sleeved Mega Stega t-shirt from one of the more recent Ubercart stores, Muffin Castle. I nabbed the shirt in a site launch promotion they did over Twitter and couldn't be happier. Christina would like me to point out that it might be troublesome that the only strangers to comment on liking my shirt were teenage girls in the park (and one college-aged neighbor across the street). No worries. I'll be sporting this neon wonder at Drupalcon DC regardless!

Thanks again for the shirt. Wink

(Along with the Mega Stega shots, I'm also including pictures of the reason I was without power for 4.5 days... You have to view the full post to check out the images.)

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