The Right-Side Up Power of Scripture

Has the Bible ever turned your world upside down? You know the expression. An event that turns the world upside down changes everything. Up is down and down is up and nothing is the same. Does the Bible ever do that for you?

For most Christians, I bet the answer is “sometimes.” There probably have been moments where a passage, a verse, or even a word in Scripture spoke directly to you and changed your life. But those moments aren’t the norm. Sometimes Bible reading is…well, hard. Even (dare we say it) dull.

What should we expect from our daily devotions? Are we to aim for those light bulb, “ah ha!” moments? Or should we just resign ourselves to a sort of spiritual daily grind? Actually, neither. If Scripture is God’s word to us, it should never be dull. But that doesn’t mean every morning will be a mountain top experience, either. Something different is going on, a work that is simultaneously slower and deeper than we can imagine – something that actually turns our world right side up. To understand what I mean, I need to introduce you to Ivo Rohler and his friend Theodor Erismann.

In 1950, Rohler was an assistant to Erismann, an Austrian professor. Erismann convinced Rohler to be the subject of an experiment involving vision and the human perception of reality. Here’s what happened, as reported in The Guardian:

The professor made Kohler wear a pair of hand-engineered goggles. Inside those goggles, specially arranged mirrors flipped the light that would reach Kohler’s eyes, top becoming bottom, and bottom top.

At first, Kohler stumbled wildly when trying to grasp an object held out to him, navigate around a chair, or walk down stairs…

Holding a teacup out to be filled, he would turn the cup upside down the instant he saw the water apparently pouring upward. The sight of smoke rising from a match, or a helium balloon bobbing on a string, could trigger an instant change in his sense of which direction was up, and which down.

But over the next week, Kohler found himself adapting, in fits and starts, then more consistently, to such sights.

After 10 days, he had grown so accustomed to the invariably upside-down world that, paradoxically and happily, everything seemed to him normal, rightside-up. Kohler could do everyday activities in public perfectly well: walk along a crowded sidewalk, even ride a bicycle…

Erismann and Kohler did further experiments. So did other scientists. Their impression is that many, perhaps most, maybe just about all, people are able to make these kinds of adjustment. Images reach the eye in some peculiar fashion, and if that peculiar fashion is consistent, a person’s visual system eventually, somehow, adjusts to interpret it — to perceive it, to see it — as being no different from normal.

Read that last line again. “Images reach the eye in some peculiar fashion, and if that peculiar fashion is consistent, a person’s visual system eventually, somehow, adjusts to interpret it — to perceive it, to see it — as being no different from normal.” That is a perfect description of the human condition ever since sin entered our hearts. We see reality in a peculiar fashion – a twisted, upside down mirage – and yet we think it is normal. And Scripture is God’s gift to turn our world right-side up.

Sin distorts the way we see God. We know God exists (Romans 1:19), but our knowledge of him is gross caricature. We do not understand his holiness, so we think our sin is trivial. We do not understand his mercy and grace, so we think our efforts are needed to earn our way back into his favor. We have a carnival mirror understanding of God – but Scripture gives us a clear picture of God in his true glory.

Sin distorts the way we see ourselves. We imagine ourselves beyond the need of grace, greatly underestimating the scope of our cosmic rebellion. Or we see ourselves as beyond the reach of grace, damaged goods too far gone for God to restore. Both are errors – but Scripture gives us a clear picture of ourselves: sinners and saints, guilty and forgiven.

Like Kohler’s slow adaption to an upside down world, this reorienting work of Scripture takes time. At times there are mountain-top moments, foretastes of heaven, when we get a sudden panoramic view of reality. Other times the adaptation is slower, more subtle. And it’s not magic – instead, this restoration is the work of the Spirit through the written word. But make no mistake: Scripture is turning your world right-side up.

Photo by Liberalmind1012.

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  1. [...] The Right-Side Up Power of Scripture: What should we expect from our daily devotions? Are we to aim for those light bulb, “ah ha!” moments? Or should we just resign ourselves to a sort of spiritual daily grind? Actually, neither. If Scripture is God’s word to us, it should never be dull. But that doesn’t mean every morning will be a mountain top experience, either. Something different is going on, a work that is simultaneously slower and deeper than we can imagine – something that actually turns our world right side up. [...]

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