Thursday, March 12, 2009
Reading The Bible
I've really enjoyed two books lately, and they've both been on the topic of reading... specifically, how do followers of Jesus read the Bible? The first is Scot McKnight's The Blue Parakeet: Rethinking How You Read the Bible. I received this book at the Covenant Midwinter Conference last month and started to read it on the plane trip home. Scot is a well-respected author ("The Jesus Creed") and blogger, and a Bible professor at North Park University. He refers to those hard passages of the Bible (genocide in the OT, extended OT laws, seemingly contradictory statements about women in ministry, etc.) as "Blue Parakeets" that must be allowed to sing along with all the other birds in the backyard, even if they don't look like they belong at first. The entire second half of the book is an extended biblical defense of the full acceptance of women in all areas of leadership and ministry.
Second, Eugene Peterson's Eat This Book: A Conversation on the Art of Spiritual Reading. I think I got this book at a Midwinter Conference too, a few years back maybe. And it just seemed like the right book to pick up after Scot's. I am really appreciating its poetic and pastoral approach to the Bible. Peterson is perhaps best known for his translation, The Message.
The idea that both books hold in common is to let the scriptures be the scriptures. Way too often we in the Evangelical world have tried to boil down the incredible Word of God into a set of answers or a systematic theology or a series of promises. And yes, one can find those things in the Bible, but it is so much bigger than that. We must let the Bible be the Bible. To read it as Story, to find ourselves caught up in that Story, to take it into ourselves ("eating" the book) and allow it to tranform us. If we are not being changed, acting upon what we read, we are missing the point.
Scot McKnight reminds us again and again that the point of the Bible is to know the God who wrote it.
For some reason right now I'm drawn to the prophets, so I read Nahum the other day, and now I'm tackling Isaiah. I can't remember the last time I read these books. So good to be in another part of the Story and hearing the same voice of my loving God and Father that I hear in John and Ephesians.
Covenanters affirm the "centrality of the Word of God." In fact, it is one of our six Central Affirmations. Last month's conference was all about that. It provided some great opportunities to do thematic worship music around the topic of the Word of God. You can see what we did at the Covenant Worship Blog here.
Speaking of reading, I tried to start The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky. Again and again, I hear that this is absolutely essential reading for Christian thinkers. All the cool, po-mo Christian dudes are reading it, right? :) It's a tough read. I'm about to give up. Should I keep trying? Help me out here.