Jefferson’s Bible excludes Resurrection, does yours?

I’ve been to the Smithsonian once as a teenager. I hope I get to make it back again. My brief visit didn’t allow for the time necessary to see everything. Plus the fact that at that age I have to admit I didn’t fully appreciate the historical significance of what I was seeing.

I’m glad to read about a few artifacts getting out into the public domain, most significantly the Bible that was used by Thomas Jefferson. Here is an article about it’s stay in Colorado. Jefferson didn’t allow for the supernatural in his thinking, so he literally cut out those parts which did not line up with reason. It seems he made the effort to correlate those parts of the New Testament that he did like, and sought to put together his own version of the sacred text.

This is not a critique of whether or not he was a Christian or about the issues of separating church and state. This “wall of separation” did come about from some of Jefferson’s writings, and a free church in a free state is where I want to be. However, I did want to mention that what Jefferson did is what many people do. It could be argued what all of us do, and that is we make our own “canon within the canon” in order to prioritize those parts of Scripture we pay more particular attention to as it impacts how we live.

These past few weeks I have been associated with being a liberal on the one hand because I have been watching the History channel’s mini-series on the Bible, and also a fundamentalist because I like Chik-fil-a and some time ago came out it came out in favor of traditional marriage.  This interesting polarity has caused me to think more about those areas of Scripture that are most formative for faith and practice.

One of the disciplines I’ve been practicing is reading through the Bible. Not a major shocker for a pastor to say that, but to reassure those who might wonder. It’s the one year chronological Bible and thus far I’ve made it to the promised land with Joshua, and have been reading through all the requirements for the people of Israel in order to maintain God’s favor. I haven’t spend a great deal of time in these areas through the years, but do appreciate the stories of faith and how God delivered his people out of Egypt with a deliverer named Moses.

The calendar indicates we have one week until Easter. Yesterday our church recreated the Triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem and talked about the significance of Palm Sunday. It is hard to imagine what Jesus went through in order to stay true to his mission of setting us free from our sins. The cross was necessary for this to happen, and this shameful death provided atonement for all who believe the resurrection of Jesus. It’s a fantastic claim to believe the Jesus rose from the dead after three days, but this truth is the centerpiece of the Christian faith. And I have chosen to accept this truth and allow it to shape my life and thinking.

The Apostle Paul had to deal with those who were skeptical of the resurrection. He wrote, “If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. . . And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all people” (I Corinthians 15:13-19).

Jefferson accepted the ethical and moral teachings of Jesus. Many people do. But the supernatural element of Jesus’ life and work cannot be dismissed without eliminating what Jesus came to do in the first place. There are those who can make the reasoned argument for the resurrection too, and the work of apologetics is important. I am choosing to affirm the story of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection, grateful for what it means for me when my life on this side is over.

Easter is coming, and with that people who don’t usually enter church buildings on Sunday but acknowledge there is something extra special about this day. I will tell everyone that every Sunday is Resurrection Sunday, hoping that it will resonate and make a difference in someone’s life so that they might also believe the resurrection too.



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