Bible as Record

Andynude wrote:

Those that understand their faith can talk about it in their own words and not resort to “cos it says so in the Bible”

Kathleen replied:

Actually, a Christian citing scripture –to us–is more like the supreme court judges citing from the constitution. We gain understanding from the Bible. God speaks to all of us personally but the Bible contains the only words from God that we can all look to as one.

I replied:


That’s a very well-put, concise statement of a view that I don’t quite

When I was a fundamentalist, I read the Bible like a lawyer — looking for
reasons to denounce infractions in others and looking for escape clauses
for myself. Each passage had equal weight and didn’t need to be examined
in context or for author’s intent or in light of the meaning it would have
to its first audience.

Now I read the Bible and understand my faith in a more experiential way.
The Bible is a marvelous record of the faith of many people throughout the
ages. But it’s not a closed shrine to dead saints — we read of people
who really lived and changed, of how their faith and understanding increased
as they grew spiritually. And it’s not just about individuals — in the
broad sweep of biblical history we may learn a little about the spiritual
growth of the whole human race, culminating in the revelation of the Word
in the person of the Christ.

Now the Bible gives us honest pictures of real people — people who grew
and increased in faith because they NEEDED to. We are shown all their
imperfections — sometimes even in first person. So as I read the Bible,
I try to keep in mind the real people I am reading about — where were they
in their faith journeys, what had they already learned and what lessons
were still ahead of them?

One may be led astray by considering individual passages in isolation,
without the context that may tell us whether it is an immature or a mature
understanding of faith. Or to put it into rather oversimplified terms, am
I reading about a bad example or a good example?

Consider King David for an extreme case. Should I emulate David and
arrange for the husband of a woman I lust after to be killed in battle?
Or should I emulate David and pray for understanding of God’s law? In the
New Testament (in an example not quite so extreme) we read that Peter and
some of the other apostles at first thought that non-Jewish adherents to
the Christian message should go through the rites and ceremonies of
conversion to Judaism, but later they came to a better understanding that
the gospel message was universal, that God’s grace is available to everyone.

When I speak of reading a biblical passage in context, of course the
ultimate context is the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. (That’s what I
meant in another post, when I asked why a doctrine was called Christian if
it wasn’t Christ-centered.)

So no, although I appeal to the Bible, it’s not in the same way as a lawyer
appeals to the Constitution. I don’t take each word in the most literal
possible meaning. If I may paraphrase Churchill, the Bible is a parable
wrapped in a metaphor inside a kerygma.

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