How Do You Take Your Scriptures?

03 Jun 2014

Varied interpretations of the Jewish, Muslim and Christian scriptures have been the center of controversy for centuries.

Sunni and Shiite Muslims view the Qur’an very differently and defend their positions to the death (the cause of much us-vs- them hatred).

In Jesus’ day, Pharisees and Sadducees rarely saw eye to eye.

The sheer number of Christian denominations shows how people interpret passages differently.

So how do you take YOUR scriptures?

As a communication teacher, I know everyone interprets every situation through their own lens of personality, experience, culture and other variables. As a Christ follower, I understand people view passages differently. They even view the bible itself through different philosophical and cultural lenses.

I know people who think that every time they open the bible, God directly talks to them in that moment. Instead of learning from the stories and trying to glean the principles, they over-personalize every passage to be some narcosistic work of God for them in that moment. As biblical professor emeritus Dr. Gordon Fee used to say, “It cannot say what it did not say.” In other words, you have to consider the original audience and intent of the author when reading the bible (or any text).

I think a balanced perspective is well articulated in the following passage from a little book called, Pub Theology: Beer, Conversation, and God by Bryan Berghoef:

“The Bible—or we might say, each book within the Bible—was written by a particular community of faith, for a particular community of faith. It was written in history, by human beings, each and every one of whom had their own agenda, bias, and perspective. Does that mean it is not from God? Not at all. But it does mean that its message is not always going to be clear, unified, and simple. There are texts that don’t just appear contradictory—they are contradictory! For those with a simplistic view of the Bible, this is a problem (that some go to great lengths to explain away). But for those who see the Bible as voicing the experiences of people who have encountered God throughout history in a diversity of ways and over hundreds and thousands of years, it should be expected.

“The reality is, I love the Bible—it’s my favorite book in the whole world—and I think it has impacted our world more than any other book, and I think it continues to speak powerfully today. And if it is such an important book, an avenue through which we access the divine, then we ought to take it that seriously. Taking it seriously does not mean we just simply say, ‘There it is—God’s Word! If it says, ‘Jump!’ we’ll jump.” That might appear on the surface to be taking it seriously, but it is also a bit naïve (taking it literally is not the only way to take it seriously).

“It is actually more respectful to the Bible to care it about it so much that you are willing to take it on its own terms, as an ancient text, as something that was written in a particular historical setting, in a particular language and in a specific context.”

Pub Theology is available from Barnes and Noble and other booksellers.

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