I started this series with a generalisation which I’ve rather come to regret: I claimed that there are “more or less two types of Christianity in the UK today.” I described one of them as ‘mainstream’ and said that it takes an approach to the Bible which says it is somehow a ‘divine product’. I went on to explain in a very thin and sketchy way, how the Bible was created, the process from Torah to scriptures, and then how the New Testament books were added, how everything was translated and compiled, until eventually we have the books that we have today.
Without being prescriptive in terms of how exactly I see the Bible, I said that the Bible is full of stories, and should be read as such. I suggested that all the tools of critical analysis are really helpful in that process: literary criticism, archaeology, religious and philosophical studies, they help us to bring meaning out of these stories. Also useful are the meditative, prayerful approaches that some take to the text, waiting to hear it speak to them in some unique way. Using these approaches we can find meaning, and that may even be new meaning – even after 2000+ years of study, because it relates to the world around us today.
But ultimately this all means little unless we are able to let the Bible ‘speak’ to us – and in so doing to change the way we think and the way we live. Too many people consider it the “word of God” and then find ways to justify the way they live already, claiming that this is divinely ordained. A big thumbs up from the guy in the sky. The keys to understanding the Bible aren’t hard to locate, they are there in black and white, sometimes in red and white. They are there in the Mosaic covenant, and repeated by prophets: they are demonstrated by Jesus who shows that to live this way requires dedication and humility, and a radical acceptance of ‘others’. When we listen for the voice of the Bible in this way, perhaps we do indeed hear God’s word, from far back in time, whispered through the lives and words of our ancestors: Love other people as you love yourself. There is no limit on whom you should love.
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