I briefly wrote about how others have been hurt by scripture in my first post in August. I feel like scripture especially interpretation of scripture is extremely important to revisit. As with any religious organization, scripture is what grounds our foundational beliefs about the world and who God is. The Bible is the primary scripture used in Christianity. It is known as "God's word" which contains the history of the Hebrew people, the writings of the prophets, the gospels, the beginning of Christianity and many other stories about God's interactions in the world. Since it was canonized it has provided great guidance and direction to people across the world. At the same time it has caused much pain and division based on the interpretations used. I believe one of God's greatest gifts is in allowing us to interpret scripture responsibly.
Let's explore scripture interpretation together and see if we can answer a few questions.
Using Our Flaws
I have heard so many arguments say "That's not what the Bible says." It's important to note the Bible was translated from Greek and Hebrew into other languages such as English. Some of the words do not match the English language and some of them lose the meaning depicted by the original author. The Bible as we know it is an interpretation based on translation. Now there are many people that strictly adhere to the literal words written because they believe the Bible is inerrant. What I find interesting when thinking about the Bible this way is that almost every character aside from Jesus was imperfect. Abraham, King David, Peter, and so many others had flaws and yet God used them. Why must we think the authors of the Bible or their writings must be inerrant as well? God uses our imperfection to make powerful, improbable things happen. It is through the mistakes, imperfections, and challenges in life where God works. Thinking about the Bible this way helps me understand I am reading through someone else's perspective which may have errors and misperceptions. However God continues to speak through it using what there is to create good in this world. Historically the gospels were not written until way after Christ's death which means the people were recalling what they could from the experiences.
When we take the Bible literally we end up pushing people away instead of bringing them closer to Christ. Literalism is looking at scripture in its most basic sense instead of diving deeper into the text. Specifically thinking there is only one meaning for this scripture or the interpretation has to be this way. I think it's important we are open and honest acknowledging we do not have all the answers. God is a mystery and with the Bible we catch glimpses of who God is and can be. And for some reason I do not believe God ever intended to have others judged and condemned in a church for their prior decisions in life. Despite my belief literalism surfaces. The best way I can think of expressing literalism is from the 2004 movie "Saved" starring Mandy Moore. If you haven't seen it, please rent it. It's a comedy about taking the Bible literally. Here's a small gif from the film. If you can't tell Mandy Moore is throwing her Bible at the girl.
So how do we interpret the Bible responsibly? I think this is a personal struggle for many of us however there are some things we can do to help us get a deeper look at the text. 1. Look at the genre of the text. This will pull out the reasoning behind the writing. What was the purpose for this text? What was the writer intending? 2. Historical criticism. This a a method trying to picture what the world was like during the time of its writing. It helps us identify the context of the passage? 3. Meaning/ Discernment of the text. What is the obvious meaning and the writer's intended meaning? What words stick out to you. Words carry many thoughts that connect us to other experiences. What theological themes stick out to you? 4. God Revealed. Scripture unfolds who God is. What does the text reveal about the nature of God? How does that apply to our relationships today?
Whenever we look deeper at scripture we find the richness of the stories, the beauty of the characters, and the relevance for today.
The great thing about scripture for those in CofChrist is that it is still being revealed to us. We believe God is still shaping who we are as a prophetic people through continued revelation. This is guidance for how our church and people should act in the world along with God. It's a belief that God is continually revealing God's self to the world. I love the imagery of God breathing in us to take action into the world, to fight against poverty, to uphold other's worth, to live community in it's wholistic essence.
How has scripture shaped your journey?
What ways do you interpret scripture responsibly?
How do you work through scriptural literalism?
How is God still revealing God's self to you?
I hope all of you had a wonderful Labor Day Weekend. This week please open your Bible and study a paragraph of your choosing. Search through the text and find meaning for yourself and your journey.
The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of Community of Christ. We believe individuals should be allowed to have their own opinions and be at different places in their faith journey.
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