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8.13.2005

On the Bible

A few days ago, I asked for thoughts on The Bible. Thanks for all the buzz, and for the honesty in your replies.

Renee said, 'For me the bible is my guideline for life." Kelly also added, "i read it at LEAST weekly... it's actually something i'm hoping to get more on top of...." Melissa typed, "It's a love story. It's a road map through this journey of life. It is a tool. It's an instructonal manual for my salvation. And bjk posted, "it has been the most amazing thing for me to read the bible...I had no idea when I began as a prerequisite for small group leadership...how my life, my family's life would change...." I know that the Bible means so much to so many people, and that it has inspired many of us for life in ways that go beyond "this is a good book".

Bob commented, "I find it a source of energy. I read some times more than others but it has become kind of the background: I'm not always conscious of it being there but so many times I'll find my thoughts phrased in Bible verses. I guess I've 'hidden them in my heart' though I've never really focused on memorizing it. It is a part of me--integrated into my thinking as much as the memories of my childhood. I'll never be the same again and I'll never be without it." And I think PrayzHim chimed in on the same wavelength: "The intent of my heart is to have the Word as a filter for every thought and deed." I can appreciate this feeling of having this book become a part of you, being "in your heart" and having impact beyond the pages into real life.

Tana shared, "The Bible is sometimes overwhelming to me. I have to approach it like I would the question, "How do you eat an elephant?". One small bite at a time." There's an unworthy feeling that comes from the Bible, or from our idea of "bible reading," and some posters mentioned "not reading it enough" as a shortcoming. Maybe what's wrong here is that our view of the Bible is sometimes less than we say, like the episode where a houseguest "swears on the Bible" and then breaks that promise. It's like there's a disconnect from how culture views the Bible as something honorable but ultimately irrelevant to real life, and how the Spirit speaks within us to the Bible's truth, relevance and pertinance to us right now. We know it's important, but if it were as important as we think it would have a place of higher prominence in our schedules, maybe?

Then Julie wrapped up the comments with her take: "We have thirty bibles, at least. I don't read them much any more devotionally (though I did daily for twenty years). I study them for grad school and I'm learning NT Greek in the fall. Should be fun to look at the original language. I find the history of the Bible's development fascinating - the murky ways that is has been edited and compiled, interpreted and applied... All the mess of councils and politics and choices about what represents God and what doesn't. I find it hard to believe that I ever treated the Bible as a seamless whole that revealed the complete and singular will of God to all of mankind. My current relationship to the Bible is one of curiosity--that a book of so many scattered fragments can be considered an absolute guideline for life in the 21st century, in any century. Yet because I honored it as God's inerrant word to me for over 20 years, I still return to the Bible as a source of potent images, some of my values and a counterpoint for how I navigate my life today and what I believe about the cosmos in general."

That's a mouthful, and it's a lot for most of us to swallow. While I haven't deconstructed to quite the same point, I do think the process of learning what the Bible is and what it isn't is important. It has characteristics of being that guideline or rulebook, but leaving it there has problems for people looking to live beyond simple mental assent of right doctrine. It also has the traits of metaphor and storytelling that can further open us to realms of truth, but that can also lead us away from possibility and real hope if we go to far towards non-literal interpretation. There's a balance somewhere here, with factuality and truthfulness colliding, showing that God's reality is the only one around, and that that's a good thing that brings freedom and abundant life.

Something like that.

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