Heart lens of the Bible

I have regularly stated and written that fundamentalists and antitheists read the Bible with the same approach. Both treat every verse as if they are of equal status, come from the same consistent author, and are all equally true in a literalistic way. Fundamentalists shred the Bible and then paste together unrelated verses to produce a scary god. Antitheists shred the Bible and paste together unrelated verses to produce a silly god.

So often, people speak and write as if they have exclusive rights to use the word “biblical” when they are using the term as a synonym for “agreeing with them”. My opinion about something may differ from theirs, but I have devoted my life to being biblical. I put years and years into laboriously learning Hebrew and Greek. I have traveled extensively to Palestine/Israel, Turkey, Greece, Italy, and to the great museums of the world, trying to learn about biblical archaeology and history. I have a lifelong enthusiasm to try to understand the cultural context of the biblical material. My passion is to help people connect the biblical stories to our contemporary context. I preach from the Bible several times a week. This website is done as a gift – often to help people make these connections. There isn’t a day that goes by when I do not use the Bible. And it is the primary provider for my prayer life.

Many readers here will, I hope, identify with my annoyance at the hijacking of the word “biblical”. I want to reclaim the word “biblical”.

Recently, I was pointed to 16 Ways Progressive Christians Interpret the Bible. I want to take some of the ideas presented there and express them as:

10 Commandments of Biblical Christianity

1) Biblical Christianity takes the Bible too seriously to treat all the texts as if they belonged to a single genre. Some biblical texts are historical, some are parables, some are metaphorical, some are letters…

2) Biblical Christianity does not regard the Bible to have been dictated word for word. You can distinguish the style of writing of one text from another.

3) Biblical Christianity recognises that not all of the Bible has equal status – there are bleak passages, passages we wouldn’t uphold now. The Bible is not a sanitised text. Just because it is in the Bible doesn’t mean we support every point within it.

4) Biblical Christianity prays with the Bible.

5) Biblical Christianity supports critical appreciation of tradition, reason, science, and experience as sources of truth.

6) Biblical Christianity acknowledges that there can be multiple readings of the same text.

7) Biblical Christianity appreciates biblical scholarship: knowledge of the original languages, culture, and history.

8) Biblical Christianity reads the Bible in its textual context rather than simply pasting together verses from quite different contexts and times.

9) Biblical Christianity uses a hermeneutic of compassion, love, and justice – interpreting the Bible through the loving lens that we see Jesus using. Biblical Christianity acknowledges that it reads the Bible in a particular manner.

10) Biblical Christianity allows scripture to interpret scripture.

11) Biblical Christianity reads, interprets, and prays with the Bible in community.

[That’s right – in the Bible there are not actually only 10 commandments in the “10 commandments”.]

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