Photo Album

The Bible is the Church’s Photo Album.

A family’s photo album collects precious memories of the family. The photos have been arranged in a particular way. The family gathers around the album to re-tell its stories. The album maintains the family’s sense of identity. They cannot go back to the time of those stories and make new photos. There is something definitive about the collection.

Certainly, if you find a photo album from some unknown family, yes – you might be able to reconstruct some of this family’s stories. But, let’s be honest, a lot of it will be guesswork. A lot of it will be wrong. Removed from the family continuing to tell the stories as it gathers around the photo album, the album by itself loses its role of maintaining the identity of the family.

An individual who finds the album (out of the context of the family telling the stories as it gathers around the album) can misinterpret what a photo means, why it is there, and can overstress or understress its importance.

People who think that photographs show some sort of “objective” picture have never used a camera. Photographs are interpretive. They are taken from a perspective. They include and exclude. They filter and alter.

Then albums arrange photos. They can do so by theme (on the beach, in the snow), by people (with Aunt Flo), chronologically…

A photo album is like memory (like the family’s memory). Memory is not merely “what actually, objectively happened in the past.” Memory is integral to identity. Memory filters, sorts, confuses, gathers together, conflates, clusters around what is regarded as important…

The Bible is the Church’s Photo Album, integral to the identity of the Church. It is the Church’s memory. The Bible is not merely “what actually, objectively happened in the past.” It does not show some sort of “objective” picture. The stories are arranged. Stories are told from a perspective. They include and exclude. They filter and alter. The Bible sorts, confuses, gathers together, conflates, clusters around what is regarded as important… Remove the Bible from the community continuing to tell the stories as it gathers around the Bible, and the Bible by itself loses its role of maintaining the identity of the church.

Removed from the church continuing to tell the stories as it gathers around the Bible, an individual who finds the Bible can misinterpret what a story or verse means, why it is there, and can overstress or understress its importance. The ever-increasing number of “Bible-alone” communities disagreeing with each other, bears witness that this is so.

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This post continues ideas in a conversation. The ideas preceded the conversation for both of us…

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After purchasing Rev Nick Connolly’s The Bible Through the Seasons, I encouraged him, three years ago, to put his resources online in a daily format. The Bible Through the Seasons, now having completed its first three-year cycle, was the result. Soon followed: The Bible Through the Seasons – A Three-Year Journey with the Bible for Children and Families. For those interested in a spiritual discipline of reading the whole Bible, please check out Nick’s approach which complements RCL very well.

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