What is our Relationship with the Bible?
This year we are going to be journeying through the book, Following King Jesus by Scot McKnight and Becky Castle Miller. The book itself works through the McKnight's books King Jesus Gospel, The Blue Parakeet, One Life, and A Fellowship of Differents. The purpose of the book is to focus on following Jesus as a disciple. It can be done individually or in a group setting.
As I read the lesson for this week, I had two different views of the Bible in mind. It is a tension that I am still wrestling with, and I figured I would bring you along for the journey. McKnight and Miller focus on, "What is the Bible?" for their seventh lesson. In the McKnight portion quoting Blue Parakeet, he suggests that there is a more profound question to be asked first, "What is our relationship to the Bible?" I like this question because it starts us in a position not to verify if the Bible is true, but how do we interact with it. It brings in questions of how we view the Bible, how we use the Bible, and ultimately what is the Bible?
McKnight's answer to "what is our relationship to the bible is a big long sentence. "A relational approach believes our relationship to the Bible is transformed into a relationship with the God who speaks to us in and through the Bible." (Following King Jesus, 72) McKnight argues that when we take a relational approach, how we interact with the Bible is transformed. He is clear the transformation happens because the Bible reveals our relationship with God, who is speaking to us in and through the Bible. I have to admit there is something in my soul that delights in this understanding. I myself have come to be moved and transformed by the scriptures, knowing it was God speaking through them. However, the collection of works throughout the Bible that span hundreds of years if not a thousand years of collecting and editing needs to be addressed. I think this approach takes a God to us view. It is an important view to have, but misses the human element.
I believe McKnight's view needs to be held in balance with another view. One person I am still engaging with is Peter Enns. Enns has his own view on what is scripture. In the Bible Tells me So, Enns describes what the Bible is in a very long way. "In the Bible, we read of encounters with God by ancient peoples, in their times and places, asking their questions, and expressed in language and ideas familiar to them. Those encounters with God were, I believe, genuine, authentic, and real...All of us on a journey of faith encounter God from our point of view... we meet God as a people defined by our moment in the human drama, products of who, where, and when we are. We ask our questions of God and encounter God in our time and place in language and ideas familiar to us, just like the ancient pilgrims of faith who gave us the Bible...This Bible, which preserves ancient journeys of faith, models for us our own journeys. We recognize something of ourselves in the struggles, joys, triumphs, confusions, and despairs expressed by the biblical writers."(The Bible Tells Me So, 23-24) I think Enns has a different view of scripture in mind when writing this passage, but I believe it is essential to explore. We must remember that it is humans writing and editing our scriptures. They are using their life and experiences to shape the story they are trying to tell. The Bible did not fall from the sky as we have it now.
I think both views together give us a more centered or balanced approach. We must remember that these writings were done by people and communities over hundreds of years and collected and edited by people and communities over hundreds of years. At the same time, the scriptures continue to interact with people in such a way that they meet God. God somehow uses these writings to communicate and be in relationship with people and communities. Scriptures seem to be one of those spaces where the divine and human meet and incredible things happen.
Ultimately I believe that a relational approach to the Bible is an excellent method. I want to add to make sure to balance the human and divine relationships that the Bible holds. I think the power of the scriptures is the divine and human meeting. As we explore and know the God of the universe who is seeking to know and be known, God is doing so through humans and groups of humans throughout history.