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1.10.2005    |    On Reading Scripture
I consider myself a modern, post-Enlightenment man. Not subject to superstitions; not prone to imagine ghosts and ghoulies. Trained as an engineer, I pride myself on being a factual man -- if something is true, then it is. If it is not, it is not. There being no middle ground; nothing left to mystery.

Many years ago, however, I came to the realization that while this may be true of things of this world, it is not true for things beyond this world. Scripture spans both of these; it being here and now, in this world, of course. It is something that is tangible; I can pick up a Bible, I may read it (or not) as any other physical book.

And yet Scripture also transcends the mundane, in the root meaning of that word -- mundus, which in Latin connotes the secular, as against the church's world. Because Scripture is a gift to us from beyond time and space, we read it as though through a very warped lens.

Those who would claim that a certain translation of Scripture into English (or any other language) is the literal word of God put far too much faith in the mortal men who were His agents. The literalists stand nicely opposed, and with about as much logic, by those who, having read the Word, dismiss it out of hand as being rubbish because it requires a certain suspension of belief in things that they have not been a personal witness to.

In this, I'm not in the middle, somewhere between these two positions. My sense of Scripture is that it is God's pure handiwork, corrupted by men. I believe, in my core, that God has given us His truth in Scripture -- His truth, without error. Errors made were made, and continue to be made, by men in our attempts to interpret the those truths.

Scripture should be read for both its surface text, i.e. its literal meaning, and for the underlying truths that undergird and support the literal text. I may not believe that every word in the Bible is the literal truth, yet I know that every word is supported by His greater truth. When we are told not to murder, this is clear. When we are told to not each things which creepeth and crawleth (see, for example, the shopping list in Leviticus 11), this is less so. After all, Jesus, in Mark 7:18-20 has told us, "18...Don't you see that nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him 'unclean'? 19 For it doesn't go into his heart but into his stomach, and then out of his body." (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods 'clean.'). That's the Big Guy talking; He knows.

Those who wish to think every word literally true must accuse God of some kind of schizophrenia, or, of somehow, changing His mind after a cosmic blink of the eye of only 1200 or so years. This is but one problem on seemingly mutually contradictory passages. When I read Scripture, these are some of the pitfalls were I to look only at the surface text.

Hence I must, as I believe we all must, delve into the spirit, letting the Holy Spirit be our Scriptural reading guide. This is what I attempt; often failing. But even when I fail, I always learn something when I read His Word. That makes the trip worthwhile. Sometimes, when the transcendant meaning comes through, a time of Lectio Divina, why, that's when the dividends paid are beyond price.


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About this site and the author

Welcome. My name is John Luke Rich, (very) struggling Christian. The focus here is Christianity in its many varieties, its fussing and feuding, how it impacts our lives and our society, with detours to consider it with other faiths (or lack thereof).

Call this blog my way of evangelizing on the internet.

Putting it differently, we're only here on this earth a short time. It's the rest of eternity that we should be most concerned about. Call it the care and feeding of our souls.

I was born Jewish, and born again in Christ Jesus over thirty years ago. First as a Roman Catholic; now a Calvinist by persuasion and a Baptist by denomination. But I'm hardly a poster boy for doctrinal rigidity.

I believe that Scripture is the rock on which all Christian churches must stand -- or sink if they are not so grounded. I believe that we are saved by faith, but hardly in a vacuum. That faith is a gift from God, through no agency on our part -- although we sometimes turn a deaf ear and choose to ignore God's knocking on the door.

To be Christian is to evangelize. Those who think it not their part to evangelize perhaps haven't truly understood what our Lord told us in Matthew 28. We must preach the Gospel as best we are able. Using words if necessary.

Though my faith waxes and wanes, it never seems to go away. Sometimes I wish it would, to give me some peace of mind. But then, Jesus never said that walking with Him was going to be easy...

Final note: I also blog as Jack Rich on cultural, political and other things over at Wrong Side of the Tracks

Thanks for stopping by.