I vividly remember the first time time that I visited my prospective in-laws for several reasons, not least because I wanted desperately to make a good impression. I was planning to marry their daughter and wanted their approval. This seemingly simple visit was fraught with complexity on many levels, requiring me to draw on every ounce of my accumulated wealth of experience. But since I was just a 21-year-old adolescent, there was not, frankly, a lot of experience to draw on! I can’t even begin to imagine what it will feel like when my oldest son—now 17—comes home with a girl he intends to marry, especially if they are as young as I was! When you’re young, many things seem simple and straightforward. You have no idea of the deep complexity that you are entering. You propose marriage because it is seems so simple—you’re in love!—but the reality of the commitment you are entering is much more complicated.
Dave, my father-in-law, has a lovely dining table that he hand built himself about forty years ago. In- stead of chairs, this table has long benches on either side that each seat four people. As I sat on one of those benches for the first time, I thought to myself, “This table and these benches are so beautiful. I should do the same someday too. It looks pretty simple. Cut a piece of wood, get some glue, maybe a nail or two, quick brush of varnish and “Bob’s your uncle” viola!” I imagined that I too could have a hand-built table that would last for generations, that my family and future families would sit around as they shared those memo- rable life experiences that so often happen around a table—Christmas, Thanksgiving, Sabbath lunch. They would grow old, laugh, weep, share, stare, argue, engage, eat, around my table. If only important things were as easy as they can seem. If only a simple good intention could bring all that you dream into existence. I do not have a gift for wood-working and I have yet to construct my table.
The last several months, I have had so many conversations with people in my community here in Boulder. I have been struck with the conclusions many people have made about the Bible that are overly simple, that miss the complexity of the book. I believe the Bible is “simply complex.” It is so brilliant and engaging that no lifetime of study will ever cover it. No human will ever truly know it. No system or religion will ever comprehend it. For the Bible is a glimpse into the character of God. I am constantly in awe how, much I learn every single time I return to the text. The difficulty is that we approach it as if it is simple and not complex. As if you can just crack it open to a random page, read a few words, and have it change your life. Just like you might imagine quickly throwing together a table that will last forever. Just like you might propose marriage without considering how you’ll have to work on that relationship every single day for the rest of your life.
This series will explore three different passages, each with its own challenges and insights into why the Bible is “simply complex” and why it is worth returning to again and again.
Week 1—Genesis 11–24, the story of Abraham (Complex faith).
Week 2—Jonah 1–4, the story of a man swallowed by a whale (Complex expectations).
Week 3—Matthew 5:21–48, the controversial pushback by Jesus (Complex beliefs).
Amos, Obadiah, & Jonah: New American Commentary by Billy K Smith, Frank S. Page An Introduction to the Old Testament by Walter Brueggemann & Tod Linaflet
Daniel & The Twelve Prophets for Everyone by John Goldingay
Deep & Wide by Andy Stanley
Exegetical Commentary on the NT: Matthew by Grant R. Osborne Genesis for Everyone (Part 1) by John Goldingay
Genesis for Everyone (Part 2) by John Goldingay
Genesis by Laurence Turner
He Began with Moses by Grenville J. R. Kent, Paul J Kissling & Laurence A. Turner (Eds) Interpretation: Genesis by Walter Brueggemann
Interpretation: Hosea–Micah by James Limburg
Interpretation: Matthew by Douglas R. A. Hare
Just Walk Across the Room by Bill Hybels
Matthew for Everyone (Part 2) by N. T. Wright
SDA International Bible Commentary—Genesis by Jacques B. Doukhan Smith & Helwys Bible Commentary: Matthew by Ben Witherington III The Abundant Life Bible Amplifier: Matthew by George R. Knight
The Churchbook: Matthew 13–28 by Fredrick Dale Bruner
The Meaning of Jesus by Marcus J. Borg and N. T. Wright
What is the Bible by Rob Bell