Tuesday, June 19, 2012

On Reading the Bible, and Some Resources

Every so often we do a series on the bible where we interact with questions about what the bible is, what it's for, how it's authoritative, and how to read it (hermeneutics).

In the last couple years I've been challenged by Alister McGrath's work on Christianity's Dangerous Idea, which was, essentially, to put the bible in the hands of the people, "that Christians have the right to interpret the bible for themselves," and the subsequent fallout/repercussions. As a Wesleyan, I try to never forget the beautiful tension that exists in the relationship between Scripture, tradition, reason, and experience, which means that reading for ourselves never means that we read it by ourselves.

The thought I'm entertaining right now, to put it very, very simply, is this: It's not that I think everyone should be biblical scholars, but that our readings should be theologically faithful, which means that we need to become better readers and hearers of this story. It sounds circular but it's not. The point, of course, is not just to become better readers about Jesus. We read in order to become better followers of Jesus, which means that I take very seriously the practices that shape and form God's people, that make us into the kinds of people who actually follow Jesus. But one of those practices is reading the Scripture, so we have to talk about it.

In any case, I wanted to toss out two resources that I have found helpful when it comes to reading the bible. They are beginner's resource, for sure, but ones that I return to often when I want to gather up the whole story, as much as possible, in one gulp.

The first is a book by Craig Koester called A Beginner's Guide to Reading the Bible. He tries to be more comprehensive in scope, asking why we read the bible? What's in the bible? How was it composed? Who decided which books made the cut? How have people view the bible? Why so any translations? And why should I read the bible? It's a great little book to have your shelf to help you get and keep your bearings. My favorite part of this book is his summary of the Old Testament. He goes from the patriarchs, to the kings, to the prophets in about eleven pages. It's encyclopedic, but it's pretty imaginatively engaging.

The second book is by Lesslie Newbigin called A Walk Through the Bible. His is a narrative approach to the bible. He minimizes the complexity as much as possible in order to grasp the basic story of the bible, in seventy-nine pages I might add! You lose the encyclopedic and informative feel that you get from Koester's, but you gain a more succinct telling of the story from start to finish.  Plus, not only will you have a really good sense of the overarching story of God in the bible, you can read it in one sitting!

What am I missing? What else is out there like this?

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