Yesterday I was looking through an admirable, new book by Glenn R. Paauw: Saving the Bible from Ourselves: Learning to Read and Live the Bible Well. I noticed that he is both a Calvin College and Seminary grad, and was friends of Dr. John Stek, a professor at the seminary who I had the pleasure of meeting a couple times to ask questions concerning the translation of the NIV, he being a member of the Committee on Bible Translation for a good number of years. And it was interesting to see that Paauw has been much influenced by N.T. Wright, really no surprise given the amount of times Wright has been at Calvin, and the enthusiasm generated during such times.
A few things stood out to me (I want to read the book later): The good emphasis on communal Bible reading with a sound critique against individual reading. The untoward influence of modernism so that the Bible is either misread, or simply put aside as irrelevant, or even unreal. And a list of anti-verses to go with the precious promise verses clipped out of the Bible. How we often read the Bible out of context and how best selling popular books are often built on these fallacies. It is substantial in length, but not long. It is surely a solid and compelling read.
I like how the book points us toward learning to read and love the entire Bible, and to see every part of it within the entire Story and writing of scripture. I missed plenty he said, so my thoughts here can’t be an entirely accurate (not that they could be, anyhow) take of the book. What I would press again and again and again is the vital importance of reading in context. In our community and individual readings, we need to consider every part for sure, and to do so as we consider the whole. And we need to do that together. My gift in looking at the text won’t be the same as your gift, or the gift of any other. All of our gifts in doing so, will be diffferent. Of course we need to submit ourselves to how the church has read the text in the main throughout the centuries. And we need to consider the text in light of good Biblical background with reference to the culture of the Bible. Paauw emphasizes the importance of reading the Bible as a writing of its time, as well as a human writing, along with being the written word of God.
There are few things less interesting, and in some way more frustrating then to hear some Bible teacher or preacher (I try to avoid this altogether, one way or another) who goes on and on about one verse, or even one passage, yet fails to consider the verse or passage in the context of the whole.
And we don’t just go back to tradition and go on their good reading of scripture from which the church has drawn for a good, solid consensus. We must stand on their shoulders and do the same, following their example, so that we too can hear what the Spirit is saying (present tense) to the churches now. In and through Jesus.