I have a confession to make…

I have a confession to make. At times I really tire of reading the bible and I don’t think I am alone. I am not completely sure of all the reasons but I have a hunch.

The bible was given to master us and I feel I have tried to master the bible.

Influenced between the dude in 1551 who divided the bible into chapters and verses of which publishers followed suit (for practical reading purposes) and the nature of systemic theology, the scriptures have been reduced to a puzzle we must complete or a book of blessings, promises and laws that we must memorize, keep and believe. Dividing the bible up into chapter and verse, though well intended, became fodder for the modernist mindset to contain, manage and program the scriptures.

How painful a reality.

No wonder I don’t want to read it, the mystery is missing.

Whether we approach the bible like a puzzle to put together or a book of morsels about laws that we must master or promises we must believe our approach to the bible has flawed our Christian experience. If you don’t believe me look at the product. Christians can appear as robots parroting grand statements or guilt ridden people trying to perform to be loved and accepted. Even worse, we can be a people that come across like they have life all figured out and can point to chapter and verse to prove it…though we hide the puzzles pieces of the bible that don’t fit our puzzle projection and the parts of our lives that are broken.

Scot McKnight in his book “The Blue Parakeet” gives us a fresh perspective on approaching the scriptures. I encourage you to read it. (McKnight you owe me!) I dare say we need a fresh approach as the Christianity purchased from the puzzle and promise method diminishes the bible and the God of the bible.

That method has certainly lost my attention.

Our popular systemized approach to processing life doesn’t seem to capture or make room for the mystery, paradox or the full emotional reality of living life on a journey of faith as we apply it the bible.

In C.S Lewis’s “The voyage of the Dawn Treader” there is a scene where Edmund, Lucy and Eustace are staring at a picture of the Narnian ship when unexpectedly the picture draws them into a whole new world. The picture comes alive and they feel the breeze on the sea, hear sounds and smell the ocean air. They are drawn into the picture and onto the Dawn Treader. It is when we encounter God’s story that we are changed… in the variables only story can hold together and bring to life.

Story is the way to read the scriptures, not looking for point one, two and three in a passage. Eugene Peterson says, “Story is the most adequate way we have for accounting for our lives” and the primary way God gives account for his. The bible is inviting us into His life and into his story through the witness of a journey of faith in numerous lives over countless periods of history. It is in their story we find a witness to His life. It is there we journey alongside people as they come alive, aware and responsive to God. It is there we are invited into that story.

We encounter, in the God of the bible, that in life it is Him with whom we have to do. We discover we are most alive when we are wrestling with God.

My next confession.

I own and drive a yellow scooter. Yellow, because Maryanne felt if we owned a bike (I say that term cautiously) we needed a color to be seen, not hidden in traffic (safety stuff). A scooter because we are trying to do our part to ‘go green’. At $7 a tank a week you can drive just for fun and I do. I enjoy riding to feel alive. To soak in the beauty, the sun, the road and the wind against my body. It is there I feel alive. It is the contact with the rawness of life that makes us alive. It is our contact with the raw story of the bible that draws us in the picture and onto the journey of faith that changes us and makes us alive spiritually.

Maybe need to go back into the story and let the bible master us instead of us trying to master it.

Todd Rutkowski

~ by blueporch on May 28, 2010.

2 Responses to “I have a confession to make…”

  1. Here are some of thoughts for reading the bible taken from the blue parakeet…..

    The story of the bible unfolds in front of us and calls us to live it in our day and in our way. As we encounter story we learn “that was then and this is now” and it shows us that we have learned to read the bible as story. McKnight says “… the bible expects things that were designed for that time but not for our time.” He goes on to say, “God spoke in Moses’ days in Moses ways, and he spoke in Jesus’ days in Jesus’ ways, and he spoke in Paul’s days in Paul’s ways. And he speaks in our days in our ways – and it is our responsibility to live out what the bible says in our days.”

    When reading story we read the bible looking for what is retrievable. We do this by looking for retrievable biblical ideas to embrace in our practice today. Some look to retrieve all of it while others admit we can retrieve only what can be reclaimed. Mcknight says “The way of returning to retrieve all is not the biblical way. The biblical way is the ongoing adoption of the past and adaption to the new conditions and to do this in a way that is consistent with and faithful to the bible.” If not we should all take up foot washing, keep the Sabbath, not charge interest on loans and men should not have long hair and women should not wear fine jewelry nor speak in church to name a few. While we are at it we should have capital punishment and all vote conservative. (just kidding).

    We are faithful to the bible by understanding the Great Traditions. There is a difference between reading the bible through our traditions and through the Great tradition. The bible actually draws us away from being traditional…. “they went back to the Bible so they come forward into the present,” McKnight says. Each writer retold the story for their day in their way and the telling of story cost some their lives like Stephen (Acts 7). The Great tradition admits we must read the bible for ourselves but we must be responsible to what the church has always believed. McKnight says “we can reduce the Great Tradition to the Nicene Creed, the Apostle’s Creed, and the importance of justification by faith from the Reformation. These creeds point us to the nonnegotiables of the faith…” The traditional approach too often swallows up the Bible with its tradition or freezes and fossilizes our expressions of the gospel. The Great tradition frees us to find God’s ways in our days. It frees us to read it like story once again.


  2. If you think about how indigenous cultures around the world have carried on, it is through story. It’s print that revolutionized our senses and reordered them so that the visual became the top priority, and with it, so some theorists think, the phenomenological, the endcoding that happens when stories are told and re-told, the communal, etc. With that has come our desire for “information,” the dispensation of facts, etc.

    I did a bunch of study of myths at some point that looked at the structuring of story and what gets packed into Grecian myths for example. But that’s all academic so I’ll spare you the exegesis. Think about Star Wars — what most agree provides a good portion of its staying power is the way it calls on existing myths, legends, stories to fire our imaginations about ourselves and the world around us.

    Back to the Bible — I think what has changed my reading of it most recently is the retelling of it to my six year old, whose imagination was first lit by the story of Esther (thanks to Veggie Tales). We’ve left the dancing vegetables behind, but the storytelling continues. She’s riveted by the retelling of the old. And, she loves Star Wars too. Her and her friends continually act and re-enact parts of it, playing with its malleability, setting it in their own context.

    Sounds like it could be the road to heresy, no? Or, the grounding of people in a sense of themselves and their connection to each other, the earth, and their tenets of faith for thousands of years. hmm. watcha think?


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