I might as well go ahead and admit that Bible-reading is a mystery to me. Last week I commented that I never try to defend the Bible, nor press it upon people, but I still return to it every morning and usually find reason for peace. The peace is part of the mystery, as is my urge to spend a little time daily with Scripture. Some days I hurry through, some days it doesn’t seem to amount to much, some days my perspective feels forever changed.
Several years ago I attended a presentation by Bishop John Shelby Spong, a retired bishop of the Episcopal Church well known in Christian circles for writing books that seem to be deeply critical of the Church and the Bible – books like Why Christianity Must Change or Die. The main thing I recall from his talk is his deep reverence for the Bible, despite his controversial public position on it. He, too, continued to find solace in returning to the pages of Scripture.
More currently, there is The Christian Century, which features in each issue a column entitled “Living by the Word.” In the 16 October 2013 edition, Scottish writer Sara Maitland, after discussing lessons to be learned from the scoundrel Jacob, gives this frame of reference for Bible-reading: “So when we go to the Bible we have to go alert and cunning about the fact that it is not a single text. It may very well all be inspired, but it is inspired to a variety of purposes and therefore comes in a variety of genres and calls for a variety of reading skills.”
I like her suggestion that readers be “alert and cunning” in approaching the Bible. I don’t expect that such an attitude will expunge the mystery; I wouldn’t be surprised if it deepens it.