Sunday, July 19, 2009

Your Approach to the Bible--Static or Dynamic?

As a minister or Sunday school teacher, how many times have you had someone come up to you or speak up in a class and say, “What does this particular scripture passage mean?” I have finally come to the point where I believe the most honest answer I can give is, “Here’s what it means to me, but it may mean something quite different to you.” Does this mean that the teaching of scripture is relative? No, but it does mean that the Bible is more than a guidebook. Rather it is a record of God’s revelation that interacts with the reader to provide meaning.

There are two primary views that one can take of the Bible. On one hand, you may see the Bible as a static piece of literature. Once you properly exegete and interpret a passage, its meaning and application are unchangeable. You have the answer in your notebook and are ready to look it up at any time. On the other hand, you may see the Bible as a dynamic book. In this case, you give the text proper attention, but the Spirit of God continues to work with you—the reader—to make the Word of God alive and relevant to your life today. This means that you may revisit a passage that you read years ago and come away with an entirely new understanding of what it means to you today. Why? Because you are not the same person who read that passage years ago. Hopefully, God has continued to work in your life since that previous exposure to the passage and has opened new possibilities in the text and in your personal understanding of it.

Some may charge that this makes the teachings of the Bible relative to the reader and his/her context. I plead guilty! I value the careful textual, grammatical, and exegetical work of biblical scholars and take advantage of it to gain a deeper understanding of a passage, but the work of Bible study is incomplete until I make a personal application in my own life. This is where my need, my life experience, and my walk with God come into play.

I believe very deeply that the Bible is a dynamic book—a divine/human book—that is not limited by the context in which it was written or the theological interpretations of the past two thousand years. These things can inform me, but I come to Bible study with the expectation that God may have a new insight for my life. I hope that you do, too.

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