The discussion on the “hatred” of God has generated quite a bit of buzz, at least relatively so to the scope and reach of this blog. My post from a couple days ago, Does God Hate Sinners?, is already the fourth most read post at The Sometimes Preacher. My interactions with some folks have lead me to this post, which is an explanation of how I read the Bible.
We all approach the Scriptures carrying particular baggage and with a particular framework. Most of us come to the Bible knowing very little about it, and it all seems so overwhelming. How can I make sense of this? What relevance does this have to my life? I call this the Biblical Fog, but it’s really biblical illiteracy, and I fear that the overwhelming majority of Christians, today, fall into this category. We simply have not been taught how to approach the Scriptures, how to interpret them and apply them for our lives today. So we wander about in a fog, never really picking up the Bible, and when we do, never grasping God’s word. It doesn’t have to be that way, and I can help, but that’s another post for another time.
Another approach to the Scriptures is called Systematic Theology. In this approach, the Bible is a wellspring of doctrine and theology (as well as practical issues for life) ready to be categorized into an ordered system of belief. This is, generally, the approach that the scholars of the Church have taken for the past 200 years or more. “What do you believe about X?” “Well, let me go to Book A, Chapter B, Verse C and I’ll tell you, after I follow up on all the cross-references.” This approach has many strengths, but it is fundamentally flawed because it does not consider the manner in which the Bible was created.
God sovereignly directed the Bible to be written by dozens of authors over almost 1500 years under wildly divergent circumstances.
For this reason, I must pay the utmost respect to the manner in which God created the Bible–its authors, its times, its contexts, its audiences. God sovereignly directed the Bible to be written by dozens of authors over almost 1500 years under wildly divergent circumstances. I cannot dishonor this incredible work of the Holy Spirit by disregarding the historical nature of Scripture and still hope to fully understand the end result of the Spirit’s work. That is an arrogance of the worst order.
So I pay attention to the history of Scripture. I seek to understand it within its own context before I try to apply it to my context. I believe that the Bible was the Word of God to someone else before it became the Word of God for me. As I’ve said elsewhere, two principles that guide me are:
The Bible cannot mean what it never meant.
If we don’t understand the Scriptures in their historical context, we’ll never understand them at all.
I try to immerse myself in the Scriptures by entering the world of it’s authors and first readers. Besides prayer, this has been more profitable than anything else I have done in my studies. So that’s how I read the Bible, and that’s why I write the things I do on this blog, and preach the things I preach at Ember. My aim is always to honor the Scriptures for what they are, to enter the world in which they were written, and to participate in the new world they are creating.