“Just Me and My Bible”

“Just Me and My Bible” March 17, 2015

When we say “just me and my Bible” we are not Christians but narcissists.

Whenever we read the Scriptures, we do not read them alone. They do not belong to us as a personal possession but to the body of Christ, even as they are meant to speak to all persons.

We cannot escape the community of interpretation. None of us reads the Bible without a community of interpreters. What do I mean by that?

bible-page

For some, this means our local church or denomination. For others, it is a teacher or teachers we most admire. All of us read the Scriptures with the person or community who introduced us to them. We do not read them in isolation or in a vacuum. Some are tempted to assume that they read the Bible alone without these influences but this is self-deception.

We also bring our individual presuppositions and experiences to the text.

The earliest teachers of Scripture, the first pastors and leaders—some of whom were taught by God himself in Jesus Christ, or whom were taught by an apostle—are reliable guides to our reading of Scripture.

When the Scriptures were collected, and formed into the book we have, a couple HUNDRED years after they were written, the Bible’s collators were also interpreters and teachers.

If we would rely on their help in giving us the collection we have, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, we should also be interested in what they have to *say* about the Scriptures.

So, yes, we all pay attention to a community of interpreters. We are never alone in reading Scripture. The only question is “Who is in the community by which we read the Bible?” Christians differ in their answer to this question and some—maybe most—don’t acknowledge their interpretive community, but no one reads the Bible alone, whether they acknowledge their guides or not.

Every culture and land has produced Christian interpreters of the Bible since the books were first written and collected. There is an enormous deposit in sermons, books, letters, creative writing, memoirs, and essays.

I do not trust my own reading of Scripture. I want to know what other Christians of all ages and places have seen as *they* read the Bible with the Holy Spirit as their guide.

Why would I rely on my own reading when I have so many luminous companions and teachers, some of whom knew our Lord better than I do?

When I discern large agreement about a passage over the centuries, I go with that, believing the Holy Spirit has been present down the years, leading the Church into all truth.

When I am exposed to the way other Christians who are not of my “fold” read the Bible–Christ followers from other lands, from other times, with other priorities–it helps me to escape the prison of myself, my generation, and my sect of interpretation. Yes, my SECT.

This is a solid method for weeding out of my reading everything from the mildly eccentric to the wildly heretical.

When we say “just me and my Bible” we are not Christians but narcissists.

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