The Bible is a very important book. For those of us who call ourselves followers of Jesus, the book is central to who we are and functions as our guidebook for faith and practice. Therefore, it is safe to say that how we understand the Bible matters. This is the pursuit of every biblical scholar. The desire to understand the Bible has been a deep passion of mine and many of my friends.
The desire to understand the Bible has never been destructive to the Church. The desire to ask questions and challenge assumptions has never done anything to damage God’s reputation. I am not being sarcastic. That is the truth. There seems to be a fear among American Christians that if we allow challenging possibilities into the conversation and wrestle with them, then we will begin to undo the very fiber of our belief system. Our western goal is to resolve every issue. But the Bible is eastern. It was written by eastern thinkers in an eastern world with eastern ideology and systematic theologies (which is technically an oxymoron — more on that in a later post).
What has been so damaging to the Church over the years is the profound need to be right. This is not an American Christian problem; it is in the very fiber of our western mindset. We see it politics, sports, school, work — the need to perform, resolve, and be correct is everywhere, and this trickles into the Church without us even knowing it. I want to be upfront about what this series entails. It will open up a window to how the people who wrote the Bible understood what they were saying, and what the first hearers of the story might have heard and how that can shape our understanding of the story itself.
My goal is not to set this as a “right vs. wrong” way to understand the Bible. The goal is not to demean or undermine what we have learned through a “western style.” The goal is simply to open up the idea that when we realize the Bible was written by real people in a real place at a real time, and that time and place and people were radically different than modern America, it opens up all kinds of nuances that give the Bible deeper meaning and power and beauty than we ever knew could be there.
I believe this kind of understanding opens the door to inspiration for reading the Bible rather than making Bible reading a disciplined drudgery. It invites us to join the story rather than talk about a story that is mostly archaic and irrelevant to my life today. Seeing the Bible this way will force you to attack the Word of God with a passion and force of will that you didn’t know you could have.
I grew up in the Church, and my dad was a preacher. The foundation laid in my life by the western style of teaching is still very much at work in my life, and I would never want to undermine what was poured into me back then. I am not critiquing Bible college or Sunday school. I am simply offering the possibility that if we were to listen to the voices contained within the story, we would find a powerful message that is truly inspired and transformational.
What if we could find deeper and truer truths in Scripture simply by seeing additional nuances to the conversation? What if we could begin to see the spider web of connectedness within the Bible as each passage is lined up with the others to tell one amazing story? What if we could get a better grasp on the confusing passages in the Bible by simply understanding the context around what is being said? What if we had a passion for the Word of God born within us because of the diligent searching of what is there? What if…
May you become a student of the Word. May you always be open to challenging possibilities with which to wrestle. And may you be inspired and encouraged by what this series brings.
“Oh, Lord, deliver me from the cowardice that shrinks from new truth, the laziness that stops at half truth, and the arrogance that knows all truth.” Amen!