Over the past several years there was a subtle shift that occurred in how I see Scripture and the bible. It was so subtle that I only noticed it through conversations with family and friends. I think that I now have a bit of an understanding of what two key things changed for me. The result has been a more humble approach to handling the bible, a more accepting posture towards differing opinions, and more compassion with people who are also wrestling with God. So what two ideas changed the way I read scripture?
Scripture as a Theological work
That statement seems so straightforward, but it took me a number of seminary courses and personal devotional time to understand its true implications. To state that scripture is theological means that it is about the story/relationship of God with humanity. That every passage, story, chapter, and book is about God in relation with humanity. This focused my reading of scripture because I was looking for what each story and book was attempting to illuminate about this relationship. I initially found myself distracted by statements about family life, civic life, science, and others but over time found myself much more able to focus on the theological statements of the text first.
Authors wrote to people in a place and time
I was taught to read scripture as though it was written just for me. Yet it wasn’t until seminary was I given tools and help to read the bible as a text written first for people who are quite different than me. The two primary differences are place (geographical and culturally) and time (thousands of years before me). I was challenged to ask the question of what the author of the different books of scripture where attempting to communicate to their contemporary audience. After I had an understand of that message I could then ask what the author might be asking, critiquing, challenging, persuading me to do in my life or the life of our community.
To many of my friends this may have always been pretty obvious, but to me this shift was immensely challenging and transformed the way I engage with Scripture, my faith, and those around me. It has caused my theology to shift and become far more nuanced and mature (as I’ve grown though the process). Have you had your own shifts in thinking about scripture, what were they?
Photo by: brett jordan