How and why we read the Bible?
Are we self-aware about the ways in which we become readers and interpreters of the Bible?We look today at 'the Bible in the life of the minister.'
We begin the day with Lectio Divina so that we are reliant on hearing and sensing, with no commentaries to hand. This way of reading the Bible reminds us again that we are to be a people governed by contemplation.
The Bible shows us people who are governed by the contemplation of divine wisdom without reference to Scripture; paradoxically, it displays its own limits when it relates the virtue and insight of its own characters (who never read it). 'The bounds of wisdom are large' (II.1.4); God teaches by many means, and we do no honour to God or to the Bible by imagining that all God might ever wish to say to us can be contained in one volume. We learn from nature, from spiritual inspiration, from sheer experience. And God is not glorified if we assume that we can please him only by doing exactly what Scripture specifies and no more. Theological Writings & Speeches, 2005 The Richard Hooker Lecture: Richard Hooker (c1554-1600): The Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity Revisited The Temple Church, London
We turn then to a consideration of the ways we have been influenced to come to engage with the scriptures. The Anglican Communion asked similar questions regarding the "Bible in the life of the minister" back in 2010. (See Deep Engagement: Fresh Discovery).
The subsequent report captured the church's thinking regarding the Bible in the life of of its ministers.
Some of its findings revealed the belief that bad theology is out there but it is hard to discern and articulate.
That the Bible is trustworthy was a finding and that the Bible should be read as a whole and should be read against our contemporary context was deemed important.
The study of the Bible in its original languages can unlock meaning. Information in this way often belongs to the privileged, the educated, the academy. It is an area in which third world churches feel impoverished.
Inspiration is at work in the interpretation of the Bible and involves the work of the Holy Spirit.
The principles that, therefore, came out of this period of consultation, are helpful. However the report also highlighted that there are 'gaps' to be mined and minded! We are to become more self-aware about these gaps and become intentional about closing them.
Mind the gap!
Between the academy and the pew
There are gaps in terms of various hermeneutical horizons and the methods that we bring to bear in the reading of scripture. There are, of course, various reading communities, all of whom are different.
Between reading and interpreting
Is there a gap between lay and ordained? Perhaps at least to the extent that the clergy are so embedded in the Bible and its rhythms as a part of daily life. There is more exposure for clergy to the Bible.
Between the Bible and everyday life.
In its application. In its translation into how it is relevant to daily life.
Between History and now
Those ideas that are historical and how ideas supercede history for contemporary application and become overall principles. 1 Timothy 2:11-15 would work in this way. In St Paul's day women were less educated than men and so they shouldn't be usurping the authority of the trained male leader at the front whose conditioning in the scriptures would have begun to happen as a young boy. Whilst the gender specificity is no longer applicable today, the principle still stands. Before we teach others about the faith, we are to sit in submission to scripture and God and learn first so that we are suitably fit to lead others into a journey into God. We learn with a quiet spirit, asking questions where we can suitably without disrupting meetings or racing to the front to wrestle the preacher to the ground and take over! St Paul's principle is a very good and timeless one.
Between the whole and the part
The overriding narrative, and a set passage that we are exploring on a Sunday, can become divorced.
Between 'straw men' and real people
Do we set up straw men, presupposing, incorrectly, interpretative stances taken by particular 'wings' of the church? At this point, we consider the unhelpfulness of a politicalisation of Richard Hooker and how his three legged stool is supposed to have legs of equal length (Reason, Scripture and Tradition). Such emphases have in turn been translated into Liberal, Evangelical and Catholic expressions of the faith. This is clumsy. Hooker's emphasis is clearly on the scriptures with reason and tradition (and experience) being the lenses through which the scriptures are read.
Once we have mined and minded the gaps we continue in small groups to discuss the gaps in our own particular contexts. We pray to become less precious, trusting the Holy Spirit to bring people into all truth. We pray to become more mindful about the power we hold. Rather than transmitting information is it not more appropriate to facilitate learning communities where people are empowered to self-feed and explore?
We have scratched the surface of this topic, 'the Bible in the life of the minister,' on this, my last training day as a curate with Derby diocese. It was an interesting day.