A New Kind of Christian: Letting the Bible Read Us

Anna Ortung

“Our modern age has predisposed us to only a limited range of postures with the Bible. It’s all objective analysis and forensic science, always trying to prove something.”

Chapter 7 begins where chapter 6 left off. Neo and Dan are on a hike, discussing biblical interpretation. Neo presents a metaphor in understanding where the Bible fits into the Christian faith, by comparing it to a spider web he found in the woods. He says that faith should be compared to a spider web, with many foundations, as opposed to a building, with only one foundation. The Bible cannot be the sole foundation of Christianity, but that does not mean that it is not important and vital to our faith. Neo cites John Wesley, who spoke of the church deriving stability from four forces: scripture, tradition, reason, and spiritual experience. Scripture is only one necessity for the faith.

As for actually interpreting the Bible, Neo says that maybe both liberals and conservatives are doing it wrong. Conservatives treat the Bible as a modern book, approaching it like modern history books and encyclopedias, despite the fact that none of these sorts of texts existed at the time. Liberals acknowledge the Bible is different from modern texts, but judge it by modern standards. They then are predisposed to tossing aside parts of the bible that don’t fit in with the modern worldview, and see it as archaic and unimportant. I know I’ve definitely struggled with doing that. It’s incredibly easy to pick at the Bible, keeping the parts you like and nixing the ones you don’t.

There remains a third approach that Dan comes to: read the Bible less like scholars with our modern expectations, and with more of an honest desire to learn about God’s will. That is a very hard thing to do. We’re so programmed to see things through a certain cultural lens that it limits the depth at which we can engage with scripture. Neo compares the approaches to the Bible in three ways: a scientist dissecting a frog (objectively, searching for something specific) a detective (wanting to prove something) and a teenage boy meeting a girl at the mall. He says the latter is a more appropriate way to approach scripture. Dan describes it as “less aggressive, less controlling, and more relational.” We should approach the Bible not necessarily looking for anything, but just seeing what we find.

I’ve noticed this in the way that we read the Bible at EpiC. When we read, we come up with far more questions than there are answers. We don’t begin looking for anything specific; we dive right in and see what we find.

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