Studying the Bible again for the first time

Friday, August 31, 2007

If you’ve read my recent post Reading the Bible again for the first time, you would know that beginning this week I’ll be posting a weekly article on my study of the Gospel readings from the Revised Common Lectionary.

It’s been a while since I did any systematic study of a passage. I’ve enjoyed getting my feet wet again but have to go about it in a new way. I’m not preparing to write sermons. This isn’t a congregation. I’m trying to discover the impact of the text, reading through a new set of lenses, in hope of hearing what it says first of all to me personally and also to the broader faith community.

I don’t want this weekly post to be a mini-sermon, though you’re welcome to it if you need one, nor do I want to write a running commentary. I think I may include my personal commentary or behind the scenes work as a comment to the post for those die hard enough to want to read it.

It’s occured to me that you cannot have an honest dialouge about matters of faith and your journey deeper or farther away without first wrestling with scripture one on one. It’s easy to knock out theological lightweights and counter paper thin doctrinal diatribes, but it’s another matter altogether to wrestle with the angel until he blesses you, or in this case hear the text again for the first time.

You’re welcome to join the conversation any time. I always appreciate your feedback and comments, but as with everything on this blog it is a personal exercise in sanity that you are invited to eavesdrop on at your own peril.

5 Comments

  1. Jon F says:

    Hi Lyndon,
    I envy you because you seem to have found a way to allow the bible and “other” teachings to peacefully co-exist within yourself. For instance, you seem quite happy one day to be quoting the bible and gaining truth and inspiration from this, and the next day quoting a new-age teacher Deepak Chopra. My question to you is how on earth do you manage this? Does it just come naturally as an expression of your personality, or is it a point you had to work towards? I have come from a fairly “fundie” backgroud where there was “God’s Word” and that was about that. Everything else was eyed with deep suspicion. This means that now I am discovering other teachings (Conversations with God) and I hit things that do not agree with the bible, the only way I can manage this is to throw out the bible. Although this may at first sight seem a little extreme, I have always been taught that you can’t just accept the bits of the bible you want – its all or nothing. In that case, I have no choice but to say “nothing”. What is your secret?

  2. Lyndon says:

    Thanks for the question, Jon. I think people who are “all or nothing” will have more difficulty than I do. I have never had an exclusive view of the Bible, even when I was pastoring churches. I value truth and beauty no matter where I find it.

    I have found a number of authors who are able to read the Bible in a new way finding truths that I would have never been able to see looking at it with an “all or nothing” approach. I’ve also grown incredibly comfortable with “not knowing.” Fred Alan Wolf says “the real secret is not to be in the know, but to be in the mystery.” I hold the mystery in tension with what I believe. I’m not threatened by not having the answers.

    You might like to do some reading of the history of how the Bible was actually arranged and put together, known as the canon. It was a very human process. Some things were included while others were left out and all was done to convey a particular theological/doctrinal worldview. I highly recommend Elaine Pagels book on The Gospel of Thomas as an example of a brilliant and beautiful book that was excluded.

    Understanding the history behind the Bible has helped me tremendously to know how to interpret passages that on the face would cause a lot of problems. Plainly, I don’t read the Bible literally.

    I also despise labels. So when I’m reading or looking for things, I refuse to allow myself to write somebody or something off wholesale because I disagree with one point. People like Deepak Chopra and Wayne Dyer may be considered New-Age by some, but I consider them spiritual teachers or guides. I’ve found inspiration in Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Mother Theresa, as well as Jesus.

    The short answer is I’m an odd duck I guess. I find spiritual truths in books, in movies, in songs, in nature. I just try to keep my eyes open for it all the time, and I’m not picky about where I find it. All of this is based on the underlying belief that at the end of the day I may be wrong, and I’m ok with that. Good luck on the journey.

  3. Jon F says:

    Hi Lyndon,
    I am an “all or nothing” person, but perhaps in large part because I have been taught by church leaders over the the years that “the bible is not a smorgasborg” you can just pick and choose from, and that the “Holy Bible” is the “Wholly Bible”. It therefore seems very odd to me to just start going against this, as if I do I feel like I’m becoming just one more of those that pick out the bits they like and therefore can get the bible to say anything they want. I guess I’m in the transistion phase of moving away from being a fundie and into that wider territory of where you are. At this stage, it is just easier for me to completely ignore the bible – perhaps I will come back to it later on.
    Thanks for this great reply! You give me something to aim for and aspire to!. If I can become a bit more of an “odd duck”, I suspect a lot of my rants will dissolve away.
    Jon

  4. Lyndon says:

    I guess I should add that I walked away too for over a year. Went cold turkey. No church. No Bible. Nada. Distance gives great perspective.

  5. Gizem says:

    I pslronaely use the New International Version but there are many good and accurate versions available.

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