Sunday, 25 September 2011

reading the Bible for all it's worth

(with apologies to Gordon Fee, the title of whose book was something of an inspiration to this comment!)

I've been challenged over this last summer on my approach to the Bible. I don't think my understanding is in any sense complete, nor my new approach at all perfect, but I hope it will help me to see more clearly, and know more dearly!

Without a doubt before this summer I would have subscribed whole-heartedly to the view that the Bible is God's Word, inspired by the Spirit and a way in which God can work in our lives, speaking directly to us. However, none of this seemed to match my somewhat sporadic efforts to actually read it, to sit at God's feet and hear from him in this very particular way. What was perhaps more of a problem was the fact that this never really concerned me, it would go well for a month or so (normally following a summer of Keswick Convention and CYFA camps as I was fueled by the experience of being built up, surrounded by other Christians and fired up by passionate talks... there's a lot I could say about this but I'll leave it for the moment...) but then there would be long gaps, with half-hearted attempts to use Bible notes or some other aid.

From surveying my own experience of reading the Bible, I can see a scattering of failed attempts and all the approaches which simply did not work for me. (As I write this I can hear certain people thinking "well there's your problem right there...'for me'" and yes I know, but do let me finish) That in itself was enough to tell me that something wasn't right, but I still couldn't understand what that was - no-one else seemed to have the same problem! Then I began to be introduced to a new (or very old) idea. That the Bible, as God's word to us, is actually God speaking to us, here and now, as well as his words to the people of Israel so many centuries ago. Barth puts it beautifully when he seeks to "hear the Word within the words", coming to scripture to hear from God and being faced with God himself.

A new approach was suggested to me when on team day a couple of weeks ago, we spent just over a day reading through the book of Luke out loud - and not like in (some) church(es) where one person reads and everyone else sticks their noses in their own Bible (I have always been awful at reading ahead while someone else is reading out loud and consequently not paying enough attention to either the person reading or my own skimming...) - instead we took it in turns to, in pairs, do a "dramatic reading" of a few chapters at a time. It was an amazing experience, and I heard the gospel of Luke more clearly than I ever have before - I highly recommend it!

Since then I have also read an article (found here challenging people to just read their Bibles through, as though they were reading an ordinary book (which for me means curling up with it for several hours at a time, devouring the story). The joy of this is that it gives us the big picture - by immersing us in it! I started a couple of days ago and I'm now half way through Exodus, sinking myself into the story. There is a certain joy in losing yourself in the story in this way - and I really mean losing yourself - this is not an exercise which invites self reflection as such, but rather immerses us in the out-workings of God's mission to the world, first through Israel, then through Christ and the church.

I hope to finish this read through by Christmas (so feel free to ask me how that's going!) and I hope that I will come to understand on a far bigger scale what God has done and what he is now doing... I do not know my Bible even half as well as I would like to, (and probably far less well than might be expected after three years of theology...), and what knowledge I have is largely fragmentary, what better way to put it all into the big picture an learn ever more of our gracious creator God?


I was particularly challenged by a talk which I discovered on my iTunes (and I genuinely can't remember  where it came from, but it seems appropriate that I found it now!) on the reasons Christians read their Bibles poorly by Gordon Fee (not free I'm afraid, but good nevertheless...!)

1 comment:

  1. Great First Post, Rose!!
    Keep it up :)
    Funnily enough it struck a chord as I am thinking similarly about how we hear God Through the Medium of Scripture rather than In Scripture

    Perhaps a little Lectio Divina??