Monday, June 25, 2007

Reasons People Read the Bible

I broke my baby toe this morning. And this is entirely the reason why I'm writing a post at this moment. Because I was not able to drive to my class this morning I have some time to write a little. I'm sure I will recover, thank you.

Last week at an enrichment class titled How to Read the Bible my mind wandered back to this blog. At the top of the first page the facilitator passed out was:
"1) CURIOSITY APPROACH--Interested in finding out what is in the Bible, what it actually says.
Limitation: May or may not be an encounter with the Word of God."

This made me smile because I immediatly thought of Cervantes and his ongoing project, especially in light of the caveat. Honestly? I can't see you making it past Numbers with this methodology. Really, if it hasn't already happened, you will be flinging the book across the room. But maybe that's just me.

I found it interesting that my facilitator didn't even mention the literal approach. I am, as I've said before, RC, and as a people we do not read the Bible literally, or subscribe to its "inerrancy." And while I may mock such individuals who do here, in real life I suppose I treat them much more gently. When I encounter Catholics with these kinds of false, pre VII beliefs, I try to carefully educate them. Sensus plenior is a very Catholic concept. It is the fuller sense or deeper meaning of biblical texts. Catholics are open to all that science, history and literary studies can teach us about the Bible.

Anyway, I thought it might be of interest to share some of these approaches with Dialogue readers.

"2) SEARCHING FOR GOD APPROACH--Read the Bible to see what can be learned about God and how God relates with human beings.
Caution: Sometimes may create more problems than it solves depending upon the reader's mental and spiritual states, openness, personal spiritual needs, etc.
3) HISTORICAL, CRITICAL APPROACH--Interested in researching the Bible as to its composition, asking questions about authors, author's intention, community context, literary forms, etc.
Limitation: Such analysis is usually intellectual and it may or may not lead to an encounter with the Word of God.
4) APOLOGETIC APPROACH--Looking for texts to argue, substantiate or prove a point. The Bible is used as 'prooftexts.' Note: a biblical passage is biblical ONLY in the Bible. Take it out of its context and it becomes something else.
Caution: Can become defensive. Looking for one liners to prove that one is right. Not a healthy way of approaching the Bible.
5) INSPIRATIONAL APPROACH--Reading the Bible for support, comfort, consolation, reassurance, solace, etc.
Caution: Have to be careful so that it does not create a lack of challenge to my life or that it feeds my passivity. May or may not be an encounter with the Word of God.
6) DIALOGICAL APPROACH--Merging my story with biblical stories and letting the Scriptures inform and interpret my life. You find significant analogies between your life today and the biblical text.
A healthy way to encounter the Word of God.
7) LITURGICAL APPROACH--Selecting verses from Scripture to be used in worship as a proclamation of the Word of God.
Should be an encounter with the Word of God.
8) PASTORAL APPROACH--An attempt to explore the Word of God in order to obtain information, direction, insights, etc., about a particular need that needs to be addressed in an extended or local community.
Presumes that one has a healthy attitude about God's Word, the faith community and the workings of the Holy Spirit."

Rather than just ending there I'll try to wrap this up a little by saying the Bible is not for kids. This is an adult book. It takes a mature, adult understanding to find faith in it. Those of you who grew up in the "Church of Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" know that approaching the Bible in a literal fashion is childish and hard to swallow once you reach an age of reason. Doing so seems to either kill a persons faith, or stunt it. Fundamentalist Christians seem to me to be people frozen at the earliest stages of moral reasoning and spirituality.

And that's about it for today.

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