Do you have a true friend in Jesus? One that consists of the emotions, dialogue, and intimate moments that we long for from our closest of comrades? If not, maybe it’s time to reframe your perception of God; change your God-connection paradigm.
Explain what Daily Audio Bible is and how you came to create it.
Brian Hardin: The Daily Audio Bible is a community of tens of thousands of people who have committed to being in the rhythm of Scripture daily. I created it ten years ago because, like 93% of professing believers, I had never read the Bible in context and once I did, it revolutionized my life. Every day I read the Scriptures aloud, interact with them, and share the experience through our app, our website, and through places like Bible Gateway. This creates an immediate experience. It’s something that is happening every single day and you quickly realize you’re not alone on a solitary endeavor in your devotional life. The Daily Audio Bible is the epic adventure through the Bible in a year in community.
Brian Hardin: To “Reframe” is to express a concept or a plan differently. In an effort to explore what we mean when we say we are in a relationship with God, a complete reframe of the paradigm was required. And in discovering what a relationship with God is NOT, I was able to find the breathtaking beauty of what it could be.
Why do you say the term “relationship with God” is not synonymous with believing in God?
Brian Hardin: We believe in a lot of people we’re not in a relationship with. One of the false assumptions I discovered in my own life was the idea that more study about God or activity for God was making me closer to God. Certainly study and activity are important. But do they foster actual intimacy? Imagine how that would look in marriage. Study of your spouse may be helpful but to be in a life giving marriage you will have to give of yourself completely as will your mate. At some point the knowledge gives way to the intangible thing we call love. But for many, myself included, the relationship we say we have with God boils down to nothing more than gigabytes of data and data isn’t a living thing that can be related to.
Rick Warren begins his book The Purpose-Driven Life with the sentence, “It’s not about you.” You begin Reframe with, “It’s all about you.” What are you saying?
Brian Hardin: I get this question a lot because at face value it seems as if Rick and I share opposing viewpoints. But this isn’t true. The Purpose Driven Life certainly affected me as it has millions of others. When he begins with, “It’s not about you,” he’s saying that you’ll never find purpose from within yourself. To quote him, “If you want to know why you were placed on this planet, you must begin with God,” and “You were made for God, not vice versa, and life is about letting God use you for His purposes.” I couldn’t agree more.
Reframe is about peeling back the layers of what a relationship with God is actually shaped like. And in any intimate relationship two people have to be mutually involved. God has bestowed such extravagant mercy, kindness, patience, love, sacrifice and every other conceivable effort to offer relationship with us. But we’re exchanging that relationship for many lesser things and calling it healthy spirituality. It doesn’t take long to realize that what we’re calling a relationship with God wouldn’t work in any other relationship in our lives. We have to begin with ourselves. God is not withholding authentic relationship. We are. And this is why I begin by saying, “It’s all about you. And it’s all about what you do next.”
What do you mean “for thousands of years we’ve been building a box for God”?
Brian Hardin: We know more about God than we’ve ever known in human history. We can juxtapose Christian thought over millennia in ways that were never possible before. With all this knowledge why are we still struggling for intimacy with God? I believe the answer lies in the fact that God cannot be contained within a theological formula or doctrinal statement. We’ve brought all that we think we know about God and distilled it into theological formulas as if God can be quantified or explained this way. It’s a box that won’t hold God. In Genesis 3 mankind traded perfect intimacy for knowledge and we’ve spent our humanity trying to explain God through the flawed lens of our knowledge when the sacrifice of Jesus once again restored the possibility of personal intimacy. We’re settling for less and it’ll never be enough.
How did the Bible help you get out of the box?
Brian Hardin: The entire arc of the biblical narrative describes God’s willingness to be with us. The Bible reframed what I thought I knew about God. He went from a disappointed and rather angry being to a jilted lover who was desperate to be restored to His love. That’s a dramatic shift and it happened before I even get to the New Testament. When we enter the Gospels we realize that God was not only willing to be with us but desperate enough to win our hearts that he became us and spoke with his own voice into our humanity before allowing himself to be executed by us. It’s pretty hard to miss God’s heart in the Scriptures when they are read in context. One word pretty much says it all when it comes to God’s ambition toward humanity: Emmanuel. God with us.
Why doesn’t theology equal relationship?
Brian Hardin: Theology is literally “the science of God or of religion.” It’s mankind’s attempt to quantify what is infinite and beyond us. And while I love theology and believe in its value, I don’t believe it can, in any way, be rightfully described as a relationship. Theology is data. And while the data may be accurate it’s still data. Data isn’t alive. You can’t be in a relationship with data.
What are the gaps you talk about in the book?
Brian Hardin: In dismantling some of the things we exchange for actual relationship I describe the way we’re prone to assumption. An assumption is simply our attempt to create a plausible reality out of a gap. We don’t like mystery. We’d rather make an assumption about a person than allow the whole story to unfold, and we do this with God. We hold many assumptions about God that have the terrible potential of estranging us from intimacy with Him. False assumptions are nothing more than our way of filling in gaps in reality. But we’re not very good at it. When you’re in a relationship with someone that’s life giving and healthy, you know better than to assume anything. You move into one-on-one communication to reveal the mystery.
Why should people stop blaming God for human choices?
Brian Hardin: God created us in His image. He gave us the ability to make choices and He allows those choices to matter. Theologically we would call this volition. But God has become the cosmic trash heap for all of humankind’s unexplainable suffering. This is totally unfair. And it leads to very unhealthy places when we’re discussing being in a relationship with God. If everything that’s painful or unexplainable in life is God’s fault, how does one cultivate trust? And how can you truly love someone you don’t trust? Yet we constantly shake our fists at God for everything painful or unexplainable without ever really owning our part of the story. In any relationship both parties have to own their part of the relationship.
What is spiritual starvation and how prevalent is it?
Brian Hardin: Hunger is one of the greatest motivators in our lives. And it’s not just to keep us biologically alive. We’re starving for life because we’re created to have it and God is our very source of life (1 Cor. 8:6, Num. 27:16). Yet we have an incredible propensity to chase after whatever promises life with the least resistance. This isn’t a new problem. The Bible is full of examples in which mankind continually abandoned God in order to chase after another lover. This always proves empty. We’re consuming empty calories that just make us hunger all the more. The spiritual adultery is everywhere because we’re starving yet refusing to enter into a first-person, collaborative relationship with the very source of life (John 5:40); and then we have the audacity to blame God for it.
Explain your idea that Christians need to reframe the Bible and see it as a friend, not a bully.
Brian Hardin: The Bible is the story of God with us. If you take God out of the Bible, there is no Bible. Likewise, if you take people out of the Bible, there is no Bible. The Scriptures bestow a spiritual heritage and history that nothing else can. When we go to it with a scalpel as if we can dissect it, or approach it as an angry authority figure whose mission is to reveal our advanced failure in life, we’re missing the point. We have to approach the Scriptures in context and understand that this is our story. Only then can we dive deeper into the nuances. Rather than hunting for the hidden codes and nuances in the Scriptures, we need to allow them to speak to the nuances of our lives.
How can Christians make “relationship with God” much more than a mere cliché?
Brian Hardin: Ha. It’s an impossible question to answer in two sentences. Read Reframe. That’ll get you started on a path that will lead to irreversible change.
Brian Hardin: The Bible happened in real places. Often we allow the stories in Scripture to play out in our imagination and become mythic. But these stories are rooted in actual places. Promised Land was a four-year film project in which we set out to capture the essence of these places and show much more than a static photograph of a pile of rocks at an ancient ruin. There’s nothing like walking the land of the Bible personally, but Promised Land comes pretty close. We intimately filmed the land for all it’s beauty from angles never before seen and hunted down the stories in the Bible and rooted them in the places they happened. Promised Land is literally a master class in biblical history and geography, and it is epic in its scope and beauty.
What are your thoughts about Bible Gateway and/or the Bible Gateway App, and how they can be used to “reframe” a person, the person’s view of God, and the person’s relationship with God?
Brian Hardin: I love Bible Gateway. I use it every single day of my life as I read the Daily Audio Bible. We’ve partnered with Bible Gateway to offer our audio reading plan so that each day’s readings are emailed along with links to the audio. To make the Bible a constant part of the rhythm of life is to orient our hearts each day to God and I’m convinced there is no other way to survive let alone thrive. Bible Gateway offers the Scriptures and tools to move deeper into a relationship with the Scriptures, which in turn orients us to a first-person, always on, never off, holistically integrated, life-giving collaboration with God in our lives.
Bio: Brian Hardin is a speaker, photographer, record producer and an ordained minister. In 2006, he created the Daily Audio Bible, an online podcast that now delivers 1.5 million downloads a month. He’s the author of Passages: How Reading the Bible in a Year Will Change Everything for You. He has produced over 150 albums and works with artists and the arts extensively. He’s married to Christian musician Jill Parr.