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Outside the Book Thinking

One of the best teachers I’ve ever had likes to say, “Something is not true because it’s in the Bible. It’s in the Bible because it’s true.

My first impulse was to reject the idea. It seemed like a subtle insult to the best measure of truth we have. After all, I thought, in my better moments I try to look at life through the pages of the stories, people, and statements of the Book of books.  Seems to me that there is no end to the insights that can be drawn, not just from inspired words, but also from seeing how the God of creation worked with and through his people down through history. I know that I’ve found courage and comfort in seeing that people like us often felt the anger, self-confidence, loneliness, and fear that we often feel before seeing “God show up” in ways they had not expected.

But, then, I’ve thought, again about what I heard my teacher say: “Something isn’t true because it’s in the Bible. It’s in the Bible because it’s true.” Wait a minute, that’s double-talk. Or is it? No, it makes an important point.

For one thing there are statements in the Bible that are foolish and deceitful. That’s because both Old and New Testaments quote not only God and angels, but also the Devil, demons, and confused or evil people.

At the same time, the world is full of things that are true, even though they aren’t in the Bible. So the point can’t be that things are true only if they are in the Bible.

Slowly I get the picture. The God of the Bible has selectively drawn from his world a true story that allows us to see the difference between truth and error outside of its pages.

Let me give you some examples. Over the years I’ve collected hundreds of thoughts and quotes from all over and found value by seeing whether–and how– they resonate with the perspectives of the Bible. Sometimes I’ve found that atheists, agnostics, and rebels of all sorts can make some very insightful comments.

Here are some examples of outside-the-book thinking that I’ve collected and thought about over the years. See if you agree that there is either a truth or a smile that makes sense– in light of the wisdom of the Bible.

1.  It’s better to deserve honors and not to have them, than to have them and not deserve them. Mark Twain

2.  It is much wiser to invest in the future, than to borrow from it.

3.  To change you must want something else more than you what you now have. AA

4.  Woman to husband. Sure I spend more than you make. I have confidence in you. Lockhorns

5. A young couple sat in a restaurant. The woman looked bored. Sensing something wrong, but eager to please her, the young man said, Look we’ve talked a lot about me. Let’s talk about you. What do you think of me?

6. People in AA have a saying that we are only as sick as our secrets.

7. There are two kinds of people: Balcony people and Basement people (Those who say, “Come on up”; or those who say “Come on down”)

8. There are two kinds of people: Here I am people; There you are people.

9. Some people make a list of things they need to do and consider the job done.

10. You can learn more from your critics than your admirers.

11. A good friend is someone who brings out the best in you.

12. An education is of value to the extent that it protects us from the opinions of educated people.

13. What is important is not who is right– but what is right

14 It’s not so much a matter of how busy you are, but why you are busy. The bee is praised. The mosquito is swatted.

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14 Responses to “Outside the Book Thinking”

  1. Ika says:

    this is so cool! Mart, if you don’t mind, may i put your outside the book thinking at my blog?

  2. SFDBWV says:

    Truth…”What is truth?” A famous quote from none other than Pontius Pilate himself. The more one learns about God and more importantly Jesus, the more it is understood that he indeed is the “Truth”.
    The list of wisdom quotes you have provided in this article “Outside the Book Thinking” can be found I am sure in meaning written in the books of Proverbs and Ecclesiasties. Even if not direct quotes. Pearls of wisdom, like the truth is I think recognized by thoes who have ears to understand them, and a heart to search for them.
    Also let me take this opportunity to thank you Mart for your ministry. RBC has been a blessing in our home and this new addition of being able to read and discuss topic with you and other believers is just great. Thanks.

  3. poohpity says:

    That’s the funny thing that most of the quotes are very eye opening but yet they are the truths of the bible. When I went to college I had the background of having read the bible and found that in so many things written many had parts of God’s word yet rejected the bible. Go figure!! The theorists of counseling all had parts of understanding of the human condition by observation then application of techniques to change but did not have the foundation of the bible and probably never knew it was already written. Sometimes it takes someone else saying things differently to get it because of the taboo’s of the bible.

    Reading God’s word is something that is living, the more you read it the more your insights grow. It reveals things daily to help you understand a little more about God and His creation. It does take outside things to help to get it at times because I think we are so hard headed or at lest I am. Unless you have the bible as a foundation one may never know about all the wisdom God imparts to us in those pages.

  4. Mr.Turniphead says:

    Truth is true regardless of who says it. Consider Caiphas(Certainly not a nice man); “You know nothing at all! You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish” John 11:49. He spoke truth and, unfortunately, he was among those who were going to bring it about in the death of Jesus.

  5. SFDBWV says:

    Some years ago a well read friend of mine, explained to me that the sum of all the great phlosophers were that the purpose of man is to be happy. I immediatly responded by saying that the purpose of man is for the glory of God and the uplifting of his son the Christ.
    However as life has gone on I see the “truth” in his statement even if it came from an “outside the Bible” concept.
    I can relate to striving to be happy in many Biblical meanings. Yet it is still because doing good and striving to please God makes me happy. Yet I also know there are times when I am not.

  6. Mart De Haan says:

    Phillip, you’re right. The play on words was to say: measure all that we hear outside the Bible by comparing it with the Bible– rather than assuming that only what is in the Bible is true.

    As a rule, I find that the Bible can help us find a “seed” of truth in the thinking or “wisdom” of others even if it is only a fragment– twisted–as when Satan tempted Eve in the Garden.

    The challenge is to use our knowledge of the Bible to see how truth is applied, misapplied, spun, twisted, or fragmented in us– or in the world around us. For example, in the Lockhorn “smile” of, “Sure I spend more than you make, I have confidence in you.”, I think the smile is based on the misuse of the truth that i.e. (1) what we do reflects our faith in someone or something, (2) we live from the hand of our Provider, (3) when it comes to our relationship to God, we can act in faith that God will supply–when we need it– at some time in the future– more than we are now able to see… Or (4) one of our ever present inclinations is to try to live on our own desires– without regard for the pattern and boundaries (budget) of God’s provisions.

    If you think my examples are a stretch, they may be :-). But, for me, the value of the “thought” is to use the Bible as the reference point for measuring/evaluating all we see and hear around us. At the same time, I’ve found that thinking outside-in also gives us a chance to think over and over, in fresh ways, about the Bible.

    The danger of course comes if we take an idea we find outside of the Bible and try to make it our standard of truth. That’s the danger–on the other side of the challenge.

  7. poohpity says:

    I have often noticed that even some of the greatest philosophers seem to take words of like Isaiah for instance and used them as their own like da Vinci in his prophecies.

    I also notice that the division in churches take some of the bible and use it to develop their denominations.

    I have also noticed that a people group that may have never read the bible still have a part of God in their cultural behaviors. For instance the native americans before western influences. It is all so very interesting to just step back and look how God will be known in all the earth with our help or without. Or even the damage we can cause in the name of God because of wanting to impose our culture on another. By the truth!!

    Some say that everyone’s truth is different. I say Blah Blah Blah!! LOL Sometimes we loose it all by not having any truth to stand on.

  8. Mr.Turniphead says:

    The Apostle Paul warned the Corinthians “…not to go beyond what is written” (I Cor.4:6). The following statement fictitiously quotes Jesus; “I would rather die than live without you!” This is not at all a part of Scripture, but I find that it must be profoundly true, otherwise Jesus would not have come to die in our place that we might live. Paul must not have been prohibiting uninspired teaching or preaching, otherwise it would be completely inappropriate to say anything but to quote Scripture. Preaching & teaching is appropriate, but it must be in line with what the Scriptures teach. This is what he was commending in the Bereans when they looked carefully through the Scriptures to confirm that what Paul was saying was indeed true (the truth)–Acts 17:11. And this is also a ‘must’ for us!

  9. Valkiria says:

    “The word of God is living and powerful..” (Hebrews 4:12), and by “living”, I understand that is possible to apply it in all situations.
    Once I quoted Jesus to compare to one of Marx’s teaching and people in the class laughed, like I was crazy! :D

  10. plumbape says:

    There is nothing good or bad, it’s thinking that makes it so. Shakespeare
    Always one of my favorites. If one believes something is good or bad then that makes it so to that person.

  11. poohpity says:


    Do you really believe that?

  12. Mart De Haan says:

    poohpity, the Shakespeare quote needs to be focused or limited doesn’t it.

    Interestingly, it sounds a lot like what Paul wrote to the Romans when he said in 14:14, “I know and am convinced by the Lord Jesus that there is nothing unclean of itself; but to him who considers anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean.” In that context, though he was talking about differences of opinion about dietary laws of the clean and unclean foods (i.e. Kosher).

    In Paul’s other letters he does write about behaviors that are inherently “unclean,” i.e. greed, covetousness, sexual immorality.”

    At the same time I’ll bet a point could be made that all unclean behaviors actually involve a misuse of something good that God has made. In that sense also couldn’t it be said that a wrong attitude, like a bad conscience, is what takes something that God made good and uses it for something harmful.

    Actually, though, I’m just thinking off the top of my head now.. Don’t want to deny the implication of your question which is that somethings (choices, attitudes, behaviors) are not only unclean but evil.

    And sorry, plumbape, if I misrepresented your point….

  13. poohpity says:

    So it would be like “The Law” it was good for the reason it opened our eyes to sin yet it is bad because we can not to keep it?

    That kept me awake last night trying to see how that would work. I considered truth, is one persons truth different from what someone else would consider truth. Is what I consider good only good to me or is it really good. Is what I consider wrong only wrong to me or is it really wrong. So what someone considers wrong I may feel that it is alright. Am I understanding? This would make a good blog!!

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