This entire post is based off of Robert Webbers writing in Ancient-Future Worship, and all quotes are taken from that book, except where otherwise stated.
A new way to read the Scriptures… or maybe the original way…?
Robert Webber challenges his reader to read the Scriptures as he says; the way the Apostles and early church read them.
Now, if you’re like me, and you have been taught how to read your Bible in the past 50 years or more, then you have taught to read the Bible literary historical grammatical approach. This way is not opposed to what Webber says, but its focus is misplaced.
As a foundation Webber says we must read the Bible and see Jesus as the focal point. I’d think most of us would agree, but do we really do that?
It easier when one reads the NT, because the authors make Jesus the center of everything for us. But when reading the OT one must make the effort to see Jesus in all things. There is a fine line in what he is saying here between allegorical reading and reading Jesus as the focal point.
Jesus Christ is the focal point of the Scriptures.
“The apostolic way of reading and preaching the Scriptures is to see Jesus Christ as the subject of the entire Bible, the subject of all of history.”
“…beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, [Jesus] explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.”
“The narrative of the whole Scriptures is about Jesus Christ. We find him everywhere and in everything…
While the early church fathers are Christ-centered in their reading of the Scriptures, they do not neglect the Father and the Spirit. The life of the Son is in the communal life of the Father and the Spirit. The Father sends the Son to redeem, to rescue the world from the clutches of the evil one. The Spirit is the one who breathes life into the world and gives life to all the events and persons who prefigure Christ. He is present in all the events of the Old Testament, as well as the ministry and work of Jesus. He is now present in the Church and in God’s people providing us with a conscious and intentional life of Christ to all who live in his name. When we are baptized into the death and resurrection of Jesus, the Holy Spirit is the one who gives us the new life in Christ. In this way we are brought up in the life of God’s community where we fellowship in the love of the Father, Son, and Spirit.
So the fathers of the church, while Chistocentric in their reading and preaching of the Scriptures, were also Trinitarian.”
“We must read and preach the Bible as true.”
This is not to say…
“Read it as if it were true.” That would be to read it mythologicaly.
“Read it and make it true.” That would be to read it to prove it.
“Read it for truths.” That kind of reading usually looks for principles to make life more successful.
How we do read the Bible as true?
1. Read the bible with an Ancient mind-set.
“The Fathers [Church Fathers & writers of Scriptures] did not see life as split between the sacred and the secular. For them everything is sacred.”
(This is the same proposition Rob Bell makes in his Everything is Spiritual DVD teaching.)
2. Read the Bible relationally
God is described through stories of relationship; illustrations of how He relates and acts toward man, not volumes of systematic facts (like this book).
“The Hebrew mind does not describe God intellectually in the abstract as though God is an object to be studied. Instead he is always pictured as the God who enters into relationship with his creatures…The New Testament images of God and church continue with this same emphasis on relationship. The church is the ‘body of Christ,’ the ‘bride of Christ,’ the ‘community,’ the ‘household of faith,’ the fellowship in faith.’”
3. Read the Bible in context, understanding its language.
The Scriptures are composed of many different genres of literature, such as law, historical narratives, letters, worship manuals, hymns, and both prophetic and apocalyptic writings. And at least one third of the Bible could be categorized as poetry,
“The ancient language was also one of paradox… So the narrative always has both a divine side and a human side. God chooses, calls, elects. God lives among the people speaking, chastising, directing. But the people live in the presence of God, who is among them. They respond and relate to God. They sometimes ignore God or outright disobey God and chase after gods of their own making. But God is always there.
Western thought—especially Enlightenment thinking—does not like paradox. Rational language cannot see how opposites are two sides of the same reality. So some want to read the Bible from the divine side emphasizing divine predestination and divine foreknowledge, but others approach the Bible emphasizing the human side of freedom and choice. In the Hebrew mind both are real and valid.”
Robert Webber would actually label this section, “read the Bible as metaphor.” He agues we come to Scriptures with our western mind seeking everything to have a literal meaning, when the ancient language was more of one that evoked a feeling.
4. Read the Bible so it reads us and speaks to our world today.
“It has the power to read us and the world because the text discloses the waywardness of the human heart. We should not read the accounts of the Human rebellion against God as a study of ‘some other person’ or of ‘that particular culture.’ Instead those accounts, while rooted in a particular history, reach across time to say, ‘you are there; that’s a description of your life, of your sin and rebellion, of your journey away from God, of your world’s rebellion… It is an interactive story of God and humanity. It reveals truth about God, but also it reveals truths about persons, societies, cultures, and civilizations.
The Bible also reads us because Jesus, who is our Redeemer, is also the model for our true living.”