I’ll be honest- I haven’t finished the book. It will make it’s way with me on holiday, where it will fight for ascendency with my pulpy Bernard Cornwell book (what can go wrong with a book dealing with senseless slaughter where men are violent and everyone else is scared?) and my world war 2 books. Maybe one day on a sun drenched veranda in the Loire (although living in Northern England, the sun scares me as it is so unusual) with a bottle of red I’ll work through a bit more….
Anyway, here are some more reactions and then a break for a few days, or maybe holiday will intervene…
Part 2 is the ‘Authority Question’- how do we read and understand the Bible?
I’d come to the point of view ages ago that the Bible is not a science textbook or ethical rulebook and also figured that shouting ‘Thou shalt not’ as loudly as possible does no one any favours. I like how he says we need to repent of using the Bible wrongly (eg look a couple of centuries back for how the Bible was used to justify slavery): ‘Repentence means more than saying sorry: it means being different’.
The core of his argument is that Christians have tended to read the Bible as akin to a legal constitution as opposed to
‘..a portable library of poems,prophecies, histories, fables, parables, letters, sagely sayings, quarrels and so on’
He gives examples of how we should treat enemies- if we read Matthew 5:44, Romans 12, Deut 7 and Psalm 139 as constitution then the Bible is a mish mash of contradictions.
A constitution is neat and has internal consistency. A culture is messy and inconsistent- Bible writers wrote to different cultures and different problems over time. It is therefore better to see the Bible as a divinely inspired library. So flaws and inconsistencies are not failures but signs of vitality.
So Revelation does not occur not in the words and statements but in the conversations, prayers and words between individuals/communities and God. Don’t snatch verses to prove/disprove a point- as if you would with a constitution-that mocks reverent reading of the whole text.
‘As we listen and enter into the conversation ourselves, could it be that God’s Word, God’s speaking, God’s self -revealing happens to us, sneaks up and surprises and ambushes us, transforms and disarms us- rather than arming us with ‘truths’ to use like weapons to savage other human beings?’
Did reading this book make me want to read the Bible and stay in it? Yes- in a way few other books have. That can’t be a bad thing.
A break tomorrow kiddies and some music…