How to Read the Bible

I just finished reading The Blue Parakeet: Rethinking How You Read the Bible by Scot McKnight. I learned of this book from my former preacher’s blog, who always gives great book recommendations (and of course his review of this book is much better than mine, so you should probably just read his).

This is the best and easiest to read book on hermeneutics I have ever read. (Of course, this is the only book on hermeneutics I have ever read.)  So, take my review for what it’s worth – just a humble opinion.  And of course, the point is, that this could be your first book on hermeneutics too.  By the way, if you don’t know what this term means, no worries, I shall explain.  (I wish someone would have explained it to me earlier, so that I wouldn’t have had to nod my head in fake understanding for all those years).  Hermeneutics  is a fancy name for how to read or interpret a text, usually the Bible.

So here’s what I learned about how to read the Bible:

  • We should always read the Bible in the larger context of Story.  According to McKnight, here’s the basic plot of the Bible:  oneness (Adam and Eve and God together), otherness (the fall, until…), oneness again (through Christ and the church).  We are currently continuing to live the text, creating oneness with God and the world.  We are part of a continuing story; part of a book!
  • We should also recognize that we all “pick and choose” what scriptures we listen to the most. One verse can be more important than another.  The trick is in discerning what bits to apply to our lives today.  McKnight likes to say that God speaks to everyone “in their own day, in their own way.”  We must determine, with (not through) the Great Tradition, the Holy Spirit, and our community how to interpret the word of God for us today.
  • And this discerning of what to apply to our lives today is murky. Everyone will have a difference of opinion, and I’m starting to rest in the diversity of Christian thought.  For instance, we all pretty much agree that it’s okay to wear Polyester (at least we did in the 70’s), but not everyone is so sure about allowing women the right to teach and preach in church (a subject that McKnight uses as a case study for discerning).

As I am trying to determine how to read and apply scripture today, I feel that McKnight has given me a good primer, a good lens through which to read God’s word.  However, McKnight also boils our reading of scripture down to this lovely and challenging quote:  “If you are doing good works, you are reading the Bible aright.  If you are not doing good works, you are not reading the Bible aright.”

It basically comes down to that, so let’s get to work.

How do you go about reading the Bible?

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