How can we read and interpret Scripture well?

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.

5. 27 This is a good reason to learn biblical languages (Hebrew and Greek) or simply to read the Bible in another language that you know.

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. 

What does charismatic renewal bring to the Church?

Christopher Landau is being commissioned as the new Director of ReSource, formerly known as Anglican Renewal Ministries, on Wednesday 8th September. I asked him about the organisation, his own experiences, and renewal in the Church today. IP: What is ReSource? Where did the organisation come from, and what has been its role recently? CL: One … Continue Reading

Can the Church ever reach young people again?

Amongst the rather depressing statistics about decline in attendance at Church of England services, one that stands out is the plummeting of engagement with young people. Jimmy Dale is the Church of England’s National Youth Evangelism Officer, and I had the chance to ask him about the current situation—how we got here, and whether anything … Continue Reading

Where is good and evil in Afghanistan?

Tom Bowring writes: I fall into writing this piece from a place of unwilling necessity following a period of reflective silence. If you were to ask my wife, she’d tell you I never talk about Afghanistan and, as psychologists do, go on to suggest this is as much about personal growth and transition as it … Continue Reading

Do we need to ‘Save the Parish’?

Frog Orr-Ewing writes: On Tuesday 3rd August, a gathering was hosted by Marcus Walker in St Bartholomew the Great, London’s oldest parish church, to launch a campaign to “Save the Parish”. This small conference was intended to begin a campaign for General Synod, expressly to stop resources being siphoned away from parishes, and to ‘resist any … Continue Reading

Was Jesus black?

One of the (several) highly contentious issues in the Church of England at the moment is the question of racism, its extent in the Church, and appropriate and effective responses to it. It has long been a question of interest to me, since soon after coming to faith I felt that God might be calling … Continue Reading

Can the C of E plant new churches and retain the parish system?

There has been a rather heated debate in the last few weeks about new church-planting initiatives in the Church of England, particularly with recent reporting of an initiative called Myriad, and its partnership with the Gregory Centre for Church Multiplication. The Gregory Centre describes itself in these terms: The Gregory Centre for Church Multiplication supports … Continue Reading

Should we withhold the giving of wine in Holy Communion?

Thomas Renz writes: Decisions that had to be made in response to the current pandemic previously prompted me to write briefly on the history of withholding the cup, on arguments against it, on the Communion of the sick, on the doctrines of transubstantiation and concomitance, and on God’s real presence, pondering the implications for celebrating … Continue Reading