Tuesday, October 10, 2006
Approaching the Text
My first post here!
I am a first year M.Div. student at Mars Hill Graduate School in Seattle. In these last few weeks of school I have been exposed to so many new ideas regarding the Text, the Bible. What does it mean for the Bible to have authority, or does it have authority? How do we, as readers, bring ourselves into the Text? How do we pull out meaning?
This week I was moved to tears about reading the Bible. Tears! Over reading the Bible! The tears sprang from knowing that I have dishonored my God by treating it as a rule book, treating it as a god in and of itself. The tears also sprang from a deep desire to dwell within the mystery of God by just letting the Text sit with me, but in that desire there is the lingering "rule book" frustration of not knowing where to begin. It is just too big, so honestly I don't approach it all.
Walter Brueggemann has a great little book titled Texts Under Negotiation where he encourages the reading of the "little stories" in the Bible - the stories that don't make sense, that don't seem to fit or have meaning. I think we are discovering that stories of women in the Bible have often been deemed as "little stories" that were skipped over, and we are amazed at the richness being brought to life in these little stories.
I guess I write all this to ask some questions to this group: how do you approach the Bible? Is it a rule book for you too, or is it something more intimate? Is it your proof for what you believe, or the book that disrupts your world views? Is reading it something you fear, or something you cherish?
posted by caz at 1:19 PM
Hi, Caz. Welcome to the group.
A question first - Would you be interested in writing a review ofWalter Brueggemann's Texts Under Negotiation for The Ooze (http://www.theooze.com)?
I'm the Associate Faith Editor over there and we're always looking for new authors. But no pressure, of course - I know how busy the undergraduate life can be, and I'd imagine that it's even more busy on the graduate level. :) Email it to me at galadriel @ theooze.com if you're interested.
I'll address on your actual post in my next comment, as I'm not sure how long it's going to be. :)
how do you approach the Bible? Is it a rule book for you too, or is it something more intimate? Is it your proof for what you believe, or the book that disrupts your world views? Is reading it something you fear, or something you cherish?
It definitely isn't the "proof" for what I believe - the (mis)application of the bible was one of the reasons I almost left the faith about 5 years ago.
Not to mention the fact that I've never been the kind of person who needs (or wants) a great deal of proof when it comes to faith. To me, faith isn't something we acquire by hearing the right arguments - it's a gift from God, not something we earn through what we do or don't do, think or don't think.
But to each their own. I realize that not everyone thinks the way I do, and I'm not bothered by God speaking to people through different avenues.
That said, I do have a high degree of regard and respect for the book. It just isn't the foundation of my faith - Jesus is. And, IMO (in my opinion), we can learn as much about God when we're in community as when we study the bible or pray or do any of the other things we do to grow spiritually.
I wouldn't say reading it is something I cherish or fear.It just is - like prayer, or doing acts of kindness for others, or giving my money and time to others, etc etc. Sometimes I like doing these things, sometimes I don't. It depends on a lot of different factors, not all of them spiritual.
I've gone from looking at it as a 'rule book' and an 'answer book' and even a 'letter to' to more of a persepctive of a legacy, a heritage.....'our' story. I'm kind of looking at it like we're a part of the story - somewhere between the creation, life, death, resurrection --- then revelation....lies our life -- we're IN the story, part of it.
I also DO though see it as a proof of sorts. I agree with Lydia that faith is a gift and I don't see it as proof of my faith or THE faith -- but I see it as proof of God's interactions with the world -- I see it as a proof of HIS story, our story. Written down, handed down.
Viewing this bible this way, it has become more of a cherished reading to me. I never feared reading it, never felt much of anything about reading it....curiosity maybe, some desire -- but I didn't cherish it the way I do now I guess.
Great post, Caz - thanks for bringing this up.
While I do take sort of a conservative view and see the Bible as the reformers saw it - the final authority for faith and practice, and the only written revelation from God, I also see that it is a story, a history, a letter, a legacy and all of that. I think seeing it as just a rule book is wrong, but I also see it as objectively God's, and not subject to my whim. It applies to me in its entirety, but I strive to understand how the original hearers/readers would have understood it, because it is in their language and into their culture that God chose to reveal it.
Not sure if this makes sense.
Prior to this year, I "knew" I was supposed to read it, and study it. I would try, but it just didn't make sense, I didn't see things that others saw, and it could be overwhelming. Now that I have been trying to see it in a different light, and in ways other than a text book, it has come to life. I still struggle, but when I do read, I try to see the stories in a different way than before. Now many times, things jump at me like never before. Part of that, was I had heard the (picked through) stories over and over in my life, and I think I just started tuning out. Then when I would read, same thing, I just couldn't get what I had been told out of my head, and had a hard time reading in an open way. The best part of being more open to other people and walks of life/faiths is the perspectives have allowed me to see the Bible outside of my tradition and receive it in a way I never had before. I have heard all my life that it is the "living word" and that God speaks through it. Well, I just hadn't had that experience. The ironic thing is now that I do really feel it has come alive, the (emerging) ways that it happened are not accepted. Those who tell me it is the "living word" seem to think only in their interpretation.
Glad you wrote, Caz. It sounds like some wonderful things are happening for you.
The best part of being more open to other people and walks of life/faiths is the perspectives have allowed me to see the Bible outside of my tradition and receive it in a way I never had before.
I had a similar experience a few years ago when I read a few books by Orthodox writers.
They (the books) weren't about the scriptures per se, but they were about the faith.
"The Bible is not your self-help guide." Man, when my pastors would say this, I simply did not get it. Because to me, it was! I was looking for "the" answers to life’s hardships. Similar to all the writers here my eyes were opened to this erroneous path and it has been very hard and humbling, yet amazingly good. A conservative friend who is threatened by my thoughts accused me of “losing my love for the Bible”. It came to me as clear as day, “I have not lost my love for the Bible. I have lost the love for my interpretation of it.” And there is such freedom in the letting go. In not having to have all the answers and letting God be enough even when I don’t understand his purposes or I fear life. I think this path you are one is just the beginning of seeing God in a whole new light. I envy your opportunity to attend Mars Hill…it sounds like a great adventure.
I don't have time at this very moment to answer your question, but I will soon...I have a question for you as a Mars Hill MDiv student: To my fellow Lutheran emerging church progressive Christian fellows, Mars Hill has a reputation for "putting women in their place" when it comes to the church ie. they should be in submission to men and not be in pastoral leadership. Is this true and if so, what is your experience in this environment? If it is not true, then do you have any idea where this comes from?
Thanks sister, Nadia
Hi Caz, Welcome!
I guess I want my view of the Bible to be like my view of God (not to say that I worship it or it replaces God), but that my view of it is as big as possible.
I like to critically think through passages for their relevance in terms of the author's intent, their historicity (sp?), the cultural context, but also I want to critically think about why God (as the Grand Author) inspired this into His book? What does it inspire (or in spiritos) in me? What is my interpretation, my cultural take on what I read? What do I emphasize, or deny? I want to ask as many questions as possible from as many angles as possible most of the time, but I also want to be able sometimes to simply approach the scripture and bask in God's presence living in His Word.
I guess the Church has done some really neat things in terms of how it views the Bible over the centuries and how it uses it, and why not glean every bit of gold out of all that great raw material. Why not treat all methods as valid, maybe different ones more valid at various points depending on what I need it for...
Hey - Nadia- are you perhaps thinking of the Mars Hill church in Seattle run by Mark Driscoll who really loves to "put women in their place" and not Mar Hill Grad School?
Caz: I love your question and I have been considering it for a few days. I only just recently discovered this site and am so pleased! To respond to your question, the past several years have made real to me the verses about the Bible being "living" and "active". Each time you read a verse or portions of the Text, there is some new revelation or application that is given you by the Holy Spirit. This is even more notable when you approach the Bible prayerfully and contemplatively. It provides spiritual direction, clarity for living and a means for even beginning to attempt to understand some small portion of the God who created this incredible and mind-boggling Universe. We begin to understand, for example how wild is God's love for us when we page through the Old Testament. Over and over, God persistently pursues a people who insist on making Him manageable and predictable. For sure, it can be a rule book, if you wish to use it that way. But it is so much more. In the Text, I have found a metaphor for the transformational path that is the Way of Christ. And I also enjoy it as an historical and an anthropological text. I experience the Bible as Truth and Christ was the manifestation of that Truth, which lived physically among us and continues to do so in Spirit. It is also a letter to us. And it is a compilation of ancient writings that tell both the personal stories of each author and somehow, amazingly, our own story thousands of years later. To always treat the Text literally and in black and white terms is to lose the dynamism of its life. It will still have power, but it (or should I say "We"?) will suffer from the containment in the litle box that we try even to keep God in. Let God reveal it to you as God so chooses. And please, share with us all what God has to say to you. And I believe we should give back to you just as generously. In this way, we help one another along in the journey and we grow in our experience of God. Thanks so much for asking the question and for prodding me to put my own beliefs and experiences into words.
I came across your blog on a search of MHGS. What can you tell me about your experience in the MDiv Program. I'm interested in possibly going there.
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