Bibliotheca: Kickstarting a Much-Need Discussion

Yes, the numbers are staggering, a man asks for $37,000 in start-up financing and receives at total of $1,400,000 from thousands of people all over the world. Even more staggering, this business venture (and labor of love) aims to publish a new edition of the Bible—already the best-selling book in history. But the more interesting—and more important—question is, “What can we learn from this phenomenon?”

If you’re not up to speed on Bibliotheca you can start here, or check out the eight-minute video. Either way, as you review these sites ask yourself what caused a response thirty-nine times greater than the creator asked for?

The Christian marketplace already noisy and busy with Bibles. There is a never-ending flow of new Bible editions: super-thin, celebrity-endorsed, ever-hip graphics, accompanied by footnotes, endnotes, sidebars, alternate readings, and book-by-book introductions. There are Bible editions for men, women, students, student-athletes, skateboarders, quilters, and cowboys. The Bibliotheca success demonstrates the remarkable intersection of design, production, faith, and personal passion. Let’s start a discussion about the meanings of this crazy level of engagement. Here are three entry points:

  • People are hungry for beauty as well as truth: Bibliotheca creator Adam Lewis Greene gave an interview to Bible Gateway. He observed, “I began to conceive of ways I could translate these scholars’ abstract ideas into concrete aesthetic expression.” Scholarship is certainly important, but perhaps we've ignored our soul's need for beauty?
  • The Holy Spirit inspired large parts of the Bible as story: here’s Greene, again: “Readers are ready to enjoy the Bible as the great literary anthology that it is, rather than as a text book. The idea of the Bible as story is moving and spreading rapidly. I have been deeply affected by this movement, and Bibliotheca is my attempt to create an elegant vehicle for it.” You can come away from Bible study with principles or stories--which will you remember?
  • You Version is here to stay, but so is the printed page. Here’s Greene, one more time: “No printed Bible can compete with the efficiency, economy, and portability of [on-line study tools]. We should gladly welcome these new forms, and I see it as an opportunity to re-evaluate the goals of printed Bibles . . . There are plenty of benefits to the sensory experience of a well-made book that digital mediums are as yet unable to provide.” In a world where the Bible is available everywhere, how can we carve out simple and quiet space to hear the Spirit of God in the Book, and how can print help us do so?

This is a conversation open to anyone interested in faith, design, marketing, Bible study, and the culture at large. These three observations are merely the invitation to discussion. What’s your opinion of the Bibliotheca project? Are there lessons to be learned or dangers to be avoided?

I’m looking forward to reading your comments.

33 of the Wisest Sayings I've Ever Heard, From My Most-Trusted Teachers

“I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” ~ C.S. Lewis

“The Christian does not think God will love us because we are good, but that God will make us good because He loves us.”
~ C.S. Lewis

“God can't give us peace and happiness apart from Himself because there is no such thing.” ~ C.S. Lewis

“The provision is in the promises.” ~ Derek Prince

“I had been my whole life a bell, and never knew it until at that moment I was lifted and struck.” ~ Annie Dillard

“Why do we people in churches seem like cheerful, brainless tourists on a packaged tour of the Absolute?” ~ Annie Dillard

“Our old history ends with the Cross; our new history begins with the resurrection.” ~ Watchman Nee

“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.” ~ Corrie ten Boom

“Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.” ~ Corrie ten Boom

“Hold everything in your hands lightly, otherwise it hurts when God pries your fingers open.” ~ Corrie ten Boom

“Grace is not opposed to effort, it is opposed to earning. Earning is an attitude. Effort is an action. Grace, you know, does not just have to do with forgiveness of sins alone.” ~ Dallas Willard

“A carefully cultivated heart will, assisted by the grace of God, foresee, forestall, or transform most of the painful situations before which others stand like helpless children saying “Why?” ~ Dallas Willard

“I'm practicing the discipline of not having to have the last word.” ~ Dallas Willard

“Our failure to hear His voice when we want to is due to the fact that we do not in general want to hear it, that we want it only when we think we need it.” ~ Dallas Willard

“When we genuinely believe that inner transformation is God's work and not ours, we can put to rest our passion to set others straight.” ~ Richard Foster

"The world upon whom grace is thrust as a bargain will grow tired of it. . .” ~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

"The preaching of grace can only be protected by the preaching of repentance." ~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day.” ~ Henri J.M. Nouwen

“Peace is first of all the art of being.” ~ Henri J.M. Nouwen

“The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” ~ Frederick Buechner

“Life is grace. Sleep is forgiveness. The night absolves. Darkness wipes the slate clean, not spotless to be sure, but clean enough for another day's chalking.” ~ Frederick Buechner

“Only miracle is plain; it is in the ordinary that groans with the weight of glory.”
~ Robert Farrar Capon

“The Christian religion is not about the soul; it is about man, body and all, and about the world of things -with- which he was created, and -in- which he is redeemed. Don't knock materiality. God invented it.” ~ Robert Farrar Capon

"It doesn't honor God to pretend everything is OK. That’s the beauty of Jesus that so many people miss. The beauty is that he died on the cross for our sins, but also that he existed the way we exist." ~ John Mark McMillan

“All sins are attempts to fill voids.” ~ Simone Weil

“To be rooted is perhaps the most important and least recognized need of the human soul.” ~ Simone Weil

“A facility for quotation covers the absence of original thought.” ~ Dorothy L. Sayers

“To complain that man measures God by his own experience is a waste of time; man measures everything by his own experience; he has no other yardstick.” ~ Dorothy L. Sayers

‎"Educated Christians like myself expect God's grace to prefer people of greater natural ability, higher standards of behaviour, and superior education in the liberal arts. In fact God mocks my expectations." ~ Augustine of Hippo

"Heaven is important, but its not the end of the world" ~ N.T. Wright

"You become like what you worship. When you gaze in awe, admiration, and wonder at something or someone, you begin to take on something of the character of the object of your worship." ~ N.T. Wright

"If you're a Christian you're just a shadow of your future self." ~ N.T. Wright

"I feel about John's gospel like I feel about my wife; I love her very much, but I wouldn't claim to understand her." ~ N.T. Wright

AND HELP ME, PLEASE: “Grace means that all your mistakes now serve a purpose instead of serving shame.” ~ I’d love to know who said this!

The Beauty and Difficulty of What God Requires

“He has shown you, O man, what is good, and what the Lord requires of you: to do justice, love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” ~ Micah 6:8

Singers and politicians have sounded out these words, because they ring true and flow smoothly from our lips. But like most prophetic words they sound poetic until you reflect on how difficult it is to hold justice, mercy, and humility in your heart at the same time. Micah’s passage has been used to rail against economic violence and to decry war in the streets, but what if these words are for us, and not for others? Here are four reflections:

Goodness comes with requirements: The passage is so beautiful we can easily miss the word “require.” The prophet reveals the stuff of God's goodness, but knowing the ingredients is not enough. We must prepare the feast.

Justice is a difficult word: we embrace the idea and struggle with the application. And application is the point of this passage—we are called to do justice. For example, anyone can decry violence. But we are called to be peacemakers. Nearly everyone sees the justice of feeding the poor, but what if we steal from the farmer to do so? Before we dismiss this example as simplistic, consider how many calls for justice cost us nothing but demand so much of others.

Mercy threatens the work of justice. In their most worldly senses, justice is about responsibility and mercy is about getting off scot-free. If we have learned justice from the laws of men, mercy and kindness will appear undo the very foundation of the law. Who can teach us true justice, and connect us with eternal mercy? The prophets revealed that the Day of Judgment would be both great and terrifying, and they looked forward to the event. To love God's justice is to yearn and tremble for his appearing, all the while knowing that (eventually) kindness triumphs over judgment. If mere men have taught us about justice—or mercy—we can be sure we must learn both afresh from God.

Anyone who can balance the demands of justice and mercy could be forgiven a hint of pride, but we are called to humility. The world has no place for humility. To the world’s way of thinking, humility is hardly the path to success. Perhaps because justice and mercy seem so at odds that humility is precisely what’s required of God’s people. Who has the wisdom to know when to tilt toward judgment and responsibility, or when to favor kindness and mercy over the demands of equity? Humility calls forth wisdom, and godly wisdom can silence the shouting of this age.

For some, justice means no mercy; for others, mercy means no justice. We are called to both, and only the humble will find the balance.

What if Glory?

Moses saw the glory of God. The encounter was transformational—it changed him so much the people of Israel asked him, “Please, cover it up, you’re freaking us out.”

Glory is a strange word these days. It has the feel of movies like Gladiator, or the hyped opening to an NFL game. Religious people use it, too, but I’m not sure we know what it’s all about. It conjures up notions of Pentecostals run amuck shouting “Glory, Hallelujah!” or even that God’s glory is in the sunset—which is true, but not very useful.

But what if the glory of God isn’t the stuff of Old Testament stories, Hollywood hoopla, or religious delusions? What if glory is a substance so real it burns our skin, or kills cancer better than chemo? What if God designed his glory to be the stuff of transformation? Apparently the Apostle Paul had such a notion: “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18)

What would it mean--in real-life, practical terms--to progress from glory to glory? What would it mean in real life if our expectations were focused on an infinite path, a path designed to transform us more and more into his image? How would it change things if we awoke to our destiny to be conformed to the image of Christ?

What if, in quoting Romans 3:23 we focused on God’s intention instead of our sin? The famous verse reminds us “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” But we have walked the Romans road so often we think only of our shortcomings, but not the destination. In this case, that we were made to live in his glory, to reflect his glory, to interact with his glorious, manifest presence. That’s a game-changer for me, and the possibilities are quite literally, endless.

One of the unspoken needs of the western church is to rediscover the stuff of Biblical legend, called glory. We, too, could ask (as Moses asked), “Show me your glory!”

At least one person has seen that day. Jesus spoke of what he saw when “the sons and daughters of the kingdom will shine like the sun.” We thought he was just being poetic, but what if he was pointing the way?

The Limits of Revelation

Blessed are you, Simon Bar Jonah, for this was revealed to you not by man, but by my Father in Heaven.” (Matthew 16:17) With these words Jesus confirmed his identity as the anointed One, the Messiah and Christ. Simon Peter had correctly answered Jesus’ question, “Who do you say I am?” Jesus declared that Peter’s answer came not by human reasoning but by direct revelation from God Himself.

What I find challenging are two specific verses that come just after this high point of revelation.

Verse 21: “From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.” Even though the disciples had received revelation of Jesus’ divine identity, there was still more to be explained. The revelation brought them to a place unattainable by human wisdom, but Jesus had more to say, more to teach. Revelation, by itself, was not enough—they needed Jesus to explain what it meant in practical terms. I believe the Father still provides moments of divine revelation today, but just like that day at Caesarea Philippi, we need the revelation explained. Our own understanding is never enough.

Verse 24: “Then Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Jesus had even more to say to the disciples. After they recovered from the shock of what the Christ would suffer, Jesus explained they, too, had a destiny that involved the cross. Like Jesus, the disciples would have to choose to take up the cross and follow him. If revelation needs explanation, then after the explanation we must respond: am I in, or out?

God’s revelation is not "FYI." We need a teachable spirit and a heart willing to respond.