The Why of Bible Study?
- The ‘macro’ – Scripture as a whole, what is it and why?
- The ‘middle’ – Old and New Testaments, covenants, shedding light on who we are and who God is not
- The ‘micro’ – The Scripture in historical, literary sections; how we piece it together.
The main ideas for this section are taken from Eugene Peterson’s The Message. The edition is important here because his musings on these outlier topics are only in the Message Bibles that “feature Eugene Peterson’s notes and reflections”. These notes and reflections are not just the result of years of scientific, linguistic study of the Biblical texts but also concomitant service in the local church as pastoral caregiver and local, resident theologian. There is a lot to be said for holding the Biblical text lightly in one hand and the heart of the local church in the other. It is a delicate and humbling balancing act not to be undertaken lightly. The vocational call to both study the Bible and to live the Bible isn’t just for spiritual professionals or arcane historians. It is for all of us who believe in something more, something outside ourselves that is intelligent, benevolent and creative beyond our abilities to predict or understand.
Through reading the Bible, we see that there is far more to the world, more to us, more to what we see and more to what we don’t see – more to everything! – than we had ever dreamed, and that this “more” has to do with God. This is new for many of us, a different sort of book – a book that reads us even as we read it. (MSGDB – A11)
**One of the things you’ll find out about me is that I am a bit of a nerd (OK, really a nerd). I not only love languages and history, I want to/need to trace every idea back to where I first heard it. I think that’s because I care a lot about what’s true and I want everybody to get all the credit they deserve. Very little of what I write is original. My job is more to pull everything together – to make the connections. So I use a shorthand to keep us with dates and the original writers. The dates help me remember (and recapture) the mindset of what I was thinking, what was influencing me at the time of writing. So today, Friday, January 15, 2021 will become 20210115 in the saved name of this document.
“MSGDB – A11” means the above quote came from The Message Devotional Bible, page A11. Eventually, there will be a bibliography or list of resources, so you can hunt down a particular book or quote. Here’s why that’s important: For me a quote usually stands in for the whole idea the original author is communicating. When that is someone like Eugene Peterson, NT Wright or Sandy Richter, that is especially true. I only quoted a sentence or so from the beginning of one of Peterson’s introductory essays. I would STRONGLY encourage you to read all the introductory essays from either of Peterson’s Message Bibles – The Message Devotional Bible and/or The Message Study Bible. I have been using the latter in pastoral/preaching/teaching/devotional study since 2012. I’ve been interacting with Peterson’s work much longer than that. He says what I mean even before I knew I meant it.
Years ago, I had the chance to study at St. John’s College, Oxford. One Sunday morning, I visited Christ Church Cathedral for a morning service, more as a tourist that an a worshipper. I had been raised Southern Baptist and knew nothing about liturgy, the creeds, the prayers or Communion as a worshipful, liturgical response/action. When I came in and stood in the back, some kind parishioner offered me a Book of Common Prayer, opened to the right page. I’ve often wondered who they were because that simple act of hospitality changed my life.
As everyone stood and said the Nicene Creed together I remember being astonished that someone had written down in a concise form what I believed. I had no idea that more than one someone had written and thought and fought over those words since about AD 325. The Nicene Creed came to symbolize for me all of a historic faith that I have spent a lifetime now studying and practicing, going ever deeper into the Kingdom of Holy Love, the already and the not yet. More on that another day.
So, off we go on journey that began for me on this very pathway, where I knelt to take Communion as part of the historic, apostolic faith for the very first time. This week, we’ll talk about the why…next week about the where.