Although this post will sound like it’s coming from a Protestant Christian, it is really hopefully in keeping with the traditional understanding of the entire church: Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Protestant, Anabaptist, Pentecostal, and all the other traditions within the Tradition of the church. Of course I know not a few will raise their eyebrows over that last thought. But back to basics.
In early centuries, people usually did not have their own Bibles, and often couldn’t read much to speak of, for that matter. That is perhaps in significance part why when one attends a liturgical church, much scripture is read, usually an Old Testament reading (called the historical reading in Anglican churches), a New Testament reading (often called an epistle reading in Anglican churches), a reading -often responsive- from the psalms, and ending with a gospel reading, from one of the gospel accounts: Matthew, Mark, Luke or John. In this way the church congregation used to be taken through all of scripture in around four years, of course in their hearing the word read, often mentioned in scripture. The idea of reading scripture to ourselves, even silently, is a relatively new practice.
What I’m suggesting in this post is nothing novel, or new. And it’s not without its dangers. But all I’m saying is that we need to be in the word of scripture, in all of it over time, and little by little every day, or at least regularly. We need to take in both a lot, and look carefully at different parts in the context of the whole. And we need to keep doing this. The church needs to be doing this together, even as its congregants do it on their own as well. Both.
Dangers to anything at all exist. In this case we face the danger that as we individually read scripture, we’ll end up dividing over different interpretations. While there is room within the church for differences of interpretations in some, perhaps many matters, the danger in even that is missing the true point of the prose, narrative and poetry of scripture. What is most basic here is to realize that no prophecy of scripture is to be interpreted privately, as 2 Peter reminds us. We need to have a respect for tradition, in other words how the Spirit has led the church to understand the scripture which the Spirit gave to the church in the first place.
Maybe it’s not accurate to call us people of the Book, but instead, we’re people of God who receive from God through the Book. We receive God’s promises and an understanding of God’s will and the grace from God through Jesus to begin to realize all of that in community as the church in our witness of the gospel to the world.
We need the big picture found in the whole of scripture, from creation to consummation in new creation. And we need the details within that story with its different acts. To understand God’s will for us now. What’s important and what is not. As well as what’s good, and what’s evil.
Scripture is a special gift from God, God-breathed (2 Timothy) and for all of life in the present. A unique, one-of-a-kind book. Through it we begin to enter into the interactivity of God’s love and work in the world in and through Jesus. The good news which helps us see what is important, and what is not, as well as what will last.