I write a quarterly column for Preach magazine, in which I explore a significant word or phrase in the Bible and the ideas that it expresses. I have written for them on:
- the phrase ‘Word of God’
- the theme of ‘Mission’
- the meaning of ‘Apocalypse‘
- the ministry of ‘Healing’,
- the question of ‘Welcome’,
- the biblical understanding of ‘Justice’,
- what the Bible means by the term ‘church’
- what the Bible says about grief and grieving.
Louisa Lockwood, who is editor the magazine, invited me for a conversation about the column I write, and what I think is important in relation to our reading of the Bible. The video is only 13 minutes long, linked below, and these are the key things that we cover.
0.40 Introduction: the name of my blog, and how it relates to the idea that Christian faith does all add up and make sense
3.31 Why I find writing the Word of God column interesting. Scripture is a bit like the mathematical figure of a fractal, in which the whole picture can be found in each detail.
4.35 Part of our problem is that we find it very difficult to slow down and read carefully. We live in a world saturated with words, so we are focussed on skimming and reading quickly. The ancient world was very different, and much more used to reading slowly and carefully.
6.00 We have lost confidence that words actually mean things, rather than being vehicles for us as readers to impose our own meaning on them. This is critical to our belief that God can actually speak to us.
7.08 Another danger is to detach words from their wider context—we need to read the wider narrative and see how particular details, parts and ideas fit with a wider picture.
8.06 Theological interpretation of scripture is what is needed—look at what Scripture actually says, but then understanding God’s theological intention to form his people so they can faithfully worship him and live out his life in the world by the power of the Spirit.
9.44 The Spirit continues to speak to us—but this meaning is tethered to the words of Scripture. Reading the Bible is like going on a cross-cultural journey to hear what God said to his people in the past and through that to hear what God is saying to us today.
10.40 Scripture is not merely an object to be dissected, but is an act of communication to heard and understood. We therefore need the same kind of personal skills and empathy to read Scripture as we need to understand another person.
11.50 Scripture is not so much a gift to each of us as individuals, but to us as a community. Rev 1.3 models this for us: there is one who reads aloud; and there are many who hear. There is a specialist skill involved (in reading) but Scripture needs to be received and understood by the whole community.
If you would like to explore more about how to read the Bible well, you might be interested in my Grove booklet How to Interpret the Bible: Four essential questions.