It's time to get rid of the Bible study that is the staple of the evangelical diet. I'm bored of all the bible studying. I'm not interested in reading the bible as if it were a text book or an instruction manual. Let's stop pretending we all know how to read the bible. The bible is not a book to be studied. The bible is not a book that can be mastered. The great tragedy of the bible study is it has made the bible dull and boring. The great worry of the bible study is we've turned the bible into a weapon against those who interpret it differently. The bible study has created as many infallible popes as there are Christians, all who believe that they are right because their bible says this or that. The bible is a book to be wrestled with. The bible is a dangerous, world-changing, life-altering text that is out to transform the reader. The bible wants to shape our imagination to the tune of Christ. We might set out to read the bible but it ends up reading us. We need to create regular space for the bible to breathe, for it to live among us, before us, within us. The bible story is not a story to study but to indwell. When reading the bible we need to open ears and close mouths. The bible is always fresh and never stale. The bible does not put God or truth into neat statements. The bible is not God's prison. The bible is God's Word always breaking into our world. The bible is God's gift to the church; not to the individual Christian. I loved the dissonant bible blog (which alas no longer exists) which sets out to recover the bible's dissonance - the bible's refusal 'to fit the streamlined, systematic theologies so beloved of many conservative evangelicals' and recognise how 'the bible sounds discordant to our ears, at odds with what we believe to be right, just, and humane'. Mark wrote
'I'm continually disconcerted by how we reduce its richness, its complexity, its sheer strangeness into something comfortable, simplistic and bland. I'm worried about my own tendencies, let alone anyone else's, to allow my eye to skip worrying details in the text, to encourage my mind to swerve away from troubling questions, to refuse to hear the bible's dissonance.'
(originally posted 23rd june 2006)