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  • Writer's pictureRichard A. Jones

The Warp and The Woof

Updated: May 9, 2023


The Warp and the Woof

The Bible I have used for several decades is marked, smudged, and ripped. The first several chapters of Genesis have fallen out, the cover is separating, and the spine is broken.

Duct tape helps hold it together. I tried to match the color of tape with the cover so that it wouldn’t look too tacky, but I’m not sure that worked.

I bought it before the internet, so I had to look through a book store for quite a while to find what I wanted. What I wanted was a Bible with no notes in the margin, and no explanations at the bottom. I even tried to find one with no headings that divided sections, telling me what it was about before I read it. I found that to be impossible.

I didn’t want to be told what the Bible says and what I am suppose to think about it. I didn’t want someone drawing conclusions for me and answering questions I wasn’t even asking. I wanted to read it for myself.

My time looking was well spent. I finally found the Bible I wanted. And as a bonus, it was also the cheapest one in the whole store. I guess I didn’t have to pay extra for somebody else’s ideas and explanations.

I’m not saying this to be arrogant. I just want to encourage you. Do not sell yourself short when reading the Bible. Just read it with a humble mind, an open heart, and a willingness to live the truth that God reveals.

Maybe we have become to dependent on experts. In many churches today, preaching in order to inspire, has been replaced by teaching in order to instruct. And yet, Jesus said. You are not to be called teacher, for you have one teacher, the Christ.”

The apostle John says it as well, “As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things.”

I’m not talking about isolating my self and falling in love with the sound of my own voice and my own understanding. I want to listen to other people and think about what they say. I want to read good books. I can glean much from the wisdom of others. However, I don’t want to be spoon-fed someone else’s answers. I want to explore truth for myself.

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As my view of the Bible has continued to stray from much of the mainstream, I have tried to find a way to say what I mean. A couple of years ago I thought of analogy that may be helpful.

A woven fabric is composed of two types of threads: the warp threads running lengthwise and the woof threads running crosswise. Together, these create the texture and look of the fabric.

The woof threads are the shorter and the weaker, and they are more easily pulled out. The warp threads are the longer and the stronger threads.

In common usage, these terms have become an idiom for the underlying structure or foundation on which something is built. For example: Freedom and Democracy are the warp and woof of the American system. I think that this is also a fitting example for how we understand the Bible.

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It is common today for many Christian to focus on the woof of Scripture, the short threads or individual verses that are easily pulled out. They are then used as stand-alone truths or “promises.”

This method even seems to be encouraged in our modern Christian culture. I recently saw a book titled, One Verse Evangelism. I heard a radio spot that said: ”Grow in your faith with the verse of the day.” That’s a little like saying become healthy by eating a cracker.

In many conversations I have had about Scripture, a typical response to a disagreement is, “But what about the verse that says….”

The American church seems to have bought into the age of sound bites and short cuts. While there are some individual verses that do open a window on great truths, I don’t think that Scripture is primarily a book of religious one liners to pull out and apply to the various circumstances of my own personal life.

When this is done, it seems to often promote a faith that is me-centered and need-driven. People go looking into the Bible for verses that they believe speak to their own personal situations and perceived needs.

Have you ever seen those books that say, When you’re discouraged read this verse. When you’re sick read that verse. When you face an important decision read this verse, and so on?

Many Christian songs and choruses are heavy with personal themes: God loves me, God saves me, God cares for me, God strengthens me, God helps me, God protects me, God is faithful to me. No wonder the book titled God’s promises for your every need, has sold over fifteen million copies.

Am I overstating or exaggerating this movement toward a somewhat self-centered faith? How many specialty Bibles do you think there are? To name a few: the Men’s Bible, the Women’s Study Bible, the Student Bible, the Outdoorsman Bible, the Firefighter’s Bible, the Sportsman’s Bible, the Military Bible, and the Nurse’s Bible, And these are only eight of over 100 that I found.

The list was accompanied by this statement: “Find a Bible that suits your particular interests or lifestyle.”

Don’t misunderstand, the short woof threads of the Bible, are important. They give us the background and context of culture. They tell the story of individual experiences, joys, and struggles. They reveal the hopes, desires, and prayers of people like ourselves. They show us how people tried to make sense out of life. And, as I said, they may introduce us to a broader truth…

…However It is not my favorite verses or my favorite songs that define the truth of the Bible. It is the warp threads, the longer and stronger threads, that provide the foundation of Scripture and the eternal context of God’s truth. And they tell a bigger story than my own particular interest, my own distinctive lifestyle, and my own personal needs.

It is the warp threads that span the entire Bible from Genesis to Revelation and reach from creation to eternity. They tell us who God is and who we are. They tell us what it means to be human, the meaning of life on this earth, and what the future holds for humanity and all creation.

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This blog may seem to contradict what I have just said. It may appear that I am trying to teach others what the Bible says, and what it means. This is not my intent.

I definitely do not understand all that the Bible has to say, but in my next few post I want to continue to share some of my thoughts, and what I believe to be some of the long warp threads of truth in Scripture. As I share a part of my own journey, take what God gives you in order to help you follow Jesus, and leave the rest.

I wish I could say that I always follow Jesus and live my faith. In real time, however, mine is a stumbling journey littered with failure. I am grateful that one of the long threads of God’s truth is the story of forgiveness.


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