1. Wow, Joe, again Tom Wright articulates a challenge that I was not prepared for today. His phrases like “see the parts in light of the whole” and “until we wrestle with scripture we are really not honoring it”, although very “common sensible” and obviously in line with orthodox teaching, hammer at my practice of scriptural study.

    I think that my method of Biblical study is very typical of a late Modern era Protestant Evangelical American Christian in that I use the Bible to “proof text” my life. Daily, I reside in so many different “communities” that I really do not have a core. What I find myself doing spiritually is trying to fit myself and my beliefs into the particular segment of life that might be presenting the most immediate challenge – and then trying to find some scriptural basis for me being comfortable where I, in this instant, find myself.

    Possibly, this segmentation, both spiritual and corporeal, is by design and not chance. Because, so segmented, I can attempt to live portions of my life without regard to a central core AND without concern for the contradictions involved.

    To study scripture in the way that Wright recommends would force me to regard myself as part of the “grand sweep” of God’s story AND position me so as to accept responsibility for the inconsistencies between what I profess, often all too glibly, and how I live. Possibly that is why I generally do not bother to follow such a method.

    I wonder, also, if this is why the church usually does not want to hear the Bible in more of a “whole cloth pattern.” It might make the Church too radical.


  2. Steve,

    I think your concerns for your own (and mine too) segmented reading of scripture are good concerns. It is, in my mind, an important thing for non-liturgical traditions to focus what they are asking of their people in terms of bible reading. We ought to have some collective patterns that emerge. “The Story” seems like a good start. Some distinctions that make liturgy still more powerful are (1) the primacy of the gospel narratives (2) the sustained prayers of the church through the story in Psalms (3) the re-enactment of the process of salvation through the particular seasons.

    The knee-jerk reaction among non-liturgical movements (such as our own), has been that these sorts of traditions become ritualistic. We in the Churches of Christ are not too unfamiliar with this argument, as it has been leveled against us from denominations that do not partake of the Lord’s table each week, often times claiming that it becomes ritualistic. So we know the answers and questions to respond to such a claim. It is the responsibility of the community to keep those things fresh and new. After all, can’t all acts of worship become trite and ritualistic? Prayer? Song? Giving?

    That is a weak excuse for non-liturgical churches to not offer their members some concrete patterns for bible reading that do at least 4 things: 1. Keep the community sharing the same story, so that scripture can be read together. 2. Keep the gospel narratives central to the retelling of the story. 3. Offer a reading of scripture that keeps prayer (in general) and the Psalms (in particular) as an important part of the bible reading process. 4. Offer a reading that seeks to pull the community together around the most important elements of the drama of scripture (i.e. the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus) for re-enactment.

    If the community offers its members such a reading (and it doesn’t have to come from the liturgical traditions) then it automatically eliminates so much of the confusion and “fragmentation” normally associated with individual bible study.

    Narrative is critical. When we forget that a particular text is part of a narrative then we fail to see that “part in light of the whole.” We can get caught up in that particular. But think of our life. When something confusing occurs in our immediate lives (like the unexpected death of a loved one), we are not allowed to freeze time and make sense of it. The world keeps turning, life goes on, and we are forced to move the narrative of our lives forward. The same goes with scripture. If we read with a community that has a set pattern for the narrative of “the whole” then we are forced to move on. Often times, like in life, it is not until we have seen the whole story that the one confusing scene makes sense.

    Thanks for your thoughts, Steve!


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