02 February 2008

How not to read the bible

I came across and interesting post and I think that the following text is worth considering.

Netiquette demands a citation, otherwise I would be plagiarising. I do want to state the following: that I don't like the language of the first paragraph of the post and that I think it engages in a 'them and us' dualism that is unhelpful.

So why am I quoting the text? Because I do actually think that the 'it's all about me' approach to reading the bible is a huge problem.

The author suggests that many of us have learned to approach the bible in the following way (I know that I have):
1. It is about me. Whatever the book, be it Pentateuch, prophets, psalms, gospel or epistle—it is talking about me.

2. It tells me what to do or what not to do. An action is required on my part. My ability to do or not to do what the bible tells me is equal to my goodness or wickedness.

3. It condemns those that are different from me. People who are non-Christian (those who freely admit their lack of faith or worse profess a false faith) or unchristian (people who say they are Christian but demonstrate their lack of salvation by their actions, whether it be thinking premarital sex is not bad or going to an Episcopal church).

4. It implies the opposite. Every pronouncement of grace points to my own condemnation if I fail. Every promise is a threat. Everything that God does, reveals what I must do.


Sally said...

Interesting post Pam- I agree, there are real dangers in reading with ourselves as central characters , or making ourselves the point of Scripture. I will think more on this...

Doorman-Priest said...

As to No1. I tend to be more is it talking to me.

PamBG said...

As to No1. I tend to be more is it talking to me.

That would be a contemplative approach to Scripture, I think.

I find it interesting that a lot of people in my churches are uncomfortable with this approach ('What is this passage saying to me?'). I've tried using studies that ask as to reflect on what a passage is saying TO us, but people always want to go for 'the right meaning'.

Anonymous said...

Where does one get the idea that all of these ways to read the Bible are wrong. Scripture IS talking to us, premarital sex IS wrong and is condemned in Scripture, etc. I don't see why people don't understand that "Without Faith it is impossible to please God." I apologize if this sounds a little harsh that is not the intent, but for you to say the way I read the Bible is "wrong" is really and truly "false doctrine". I guess I just do not agree at all with this post however interesting it may be. DH

PamBG said...

DH, this post says 'Not everything in the bible was written about you'.


'Nothing in the bible has anything to say to your life.'

In fact, it's the focus on me, me, me that is precisely what's wrong with this way of reading the bible.

And why does 'being a Christian' reduce to sex?

Anonymous said...

I never said that being a Christian is reduced to sex. However, one must understand that Scripture mentions specifically that it is sin.

I still don't see how you can see Scripture has nothing to say about our lives today. The fact remains that Scripture is authoritative. When Jesus and God's Word tells us to do or not do something or gives directives or admonisions then how can one say those things don't apply to today? If God tells us something that is wrong in God's Word then isn't it a matter of Faith to be obedient to what God says in His Word.

I believe everything in God's Word was written for the entire world past, present and future in mind. I believe God cares about us so much that at all times He was thinking about every single person across all lifetimes. That is what is so great about Christs death and resurrection and the prophesies in the OT about that, that is why God's Word says "Before you were in your mothers womb I knew you." and "Even the strands of your hair are numbered."

I do agree that Scripture must focus on God. However, it is the directives of God's Word that shows us how to live for God to be our focus. God wants our whole lives to be under His control. That includes heart, soul, mind, actions, eating, sex, words we use towards others, where we go, etc. If God tells us what is sin, what is not sin, how we should live our lives for Him then I don't see how how one can say that it doesn't speak to us today. Otherwise we are violating what the Apostle Paul says "What shall we say then shall we continue to sin that Grace may abound? God forbid! How are we who are died to sin live any longer in it.", dh

PamBG said...

DH, We both know from previous conversations that we read the bible in different ways so all we can do really is say that we disagree with each other. But further conversation isn't going to take us anywhere.

Your continued misrepresentation of my position as 'the bible has nothing to say to us' is frustrating and incorrect.

Anonymous said...

I believe strongly that everything in the Bible was written about everyone single person past, present and future. For people to say this is a wrong way to read Scripture seems rather odd to me. The focus of Scripture is to reveal who God is with the ultiamte goal of "us" to come into right relationship with Him. I know it may seem strange to you but Scripture IS about us, God going out of His way to draw us to Himself and to show us and tell us how to live to be in right relationship with Him. He also shows us and tells us how we are not to live as well which is what Scripture calls sin.

The Word of God was written about each and everyone in mind past, present and future to show us how we can be in proper relationship and understanding of God. To say this is wrong or problematic is really an attack I don't appreciate. If your post showed a little more care and consideration as opposed to throwing it ourright I would have been a little more endeared to it.

The fact is ALL of Scripture talks to every single person past, present and future. Also Scripture was written about every single person past, present and future as well. However, all of this is with the understanding that God is over all and above all and that we are nothing without Faith in Him for Salvation. dh

PamBG said...

DH. I heard you. I don't understand what you expect: do you expect me to convert to your view?

You are entitled to your opinion and should you choose to continue to repeat yourself, I will not remove your posts, but I have nothing more to say in reply.

I'm also entitled to my view.

Anonymous said...

I'm not trying you to convert you totally to my view. I just take issue for you to say that the way I read Scripture is totally wrong. I will say that my writing on this thread is with an attitude of "Have you taken in to consideration "this"?" It appeared to me that you rejected outright as opposed to looking at all of the specifics of the topic. That's all.

I do agree there are dangers but only if we place ourselves over God. If it is read with an understanding that "Without Christ we are nothing." in conjunction with "Without Faith it is impossible to please God." Then one is not placing themsleves over God and therefore God IS placed of upmost importance more than ones slef when reading Scripture this way. dh

PamBG said...

I just take issue for you to say that the way I read Scripture is totally wrong.

Generally speaking, this is the problem with our conversation. I did not say 'The way DH reads the bible is totally wrong'. I gave a link to a thread that resonates

I will say that my writing on this thread is with an attitude of "Have you taken in to consideration "this"?" It appeared to me that you rejected outright as opposed to looking at all of the specifics of the topic. That's all.

Well, I certainly missed 'specifics'.

What specific things do you think I might never have considered?