Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Transformation and Not Information

Rhonda Lowry is teaching our current "ladies" Bible class on Tuesday morning. She is rocking our world with new thoughts, insights and challenges.

The first two sessions were on reading the Word. She quoted Ellen Davis, an Old Testament scholar, "The greatest scandal in the North American church is our shallow reading of scripture." Addressed to those of us who believe we have generally deeply studied the scripture more than most folks--the statement was a challenge. Then Rhonda took us to the story of the Samaritan woman in John 4 and proceeded to show us how we have endowed that story with things that are not there. We have read it mostly for information and not for transformation. A deep reading of scripture should bring transformation. Some of the questions my community has failed to ask as we read are what is it really saying there on the paper? and then what is it saying to me? and what am I going to do about it?

The mind-set that we can read and get the biblical perspective by ourselves without the help of The Holy Spirit is so wrong and so comes out of our rational, modern, background. This is a linear, scientific approach which says that all things can be proven. (Remember proof texts?) We believe that the words will speak to us if we have enough commentaries to tell what they mean, or if we listen to learned men enough explain it to us. We seek to grasp the text, instead of it grasping us. This is "front porch" studying--eventually we have to leave the porch and go into the house. Reading deeply is our responsibility and ours alone. God speaks to us with each word--the words are not sterile--but should and can be fresh with new eyes.

This approach means that "scripture study is an art form". It says different things to different people and different things to us at different times depending on what the Holy Spirit is wanting us to see. We are to receive rather than achieve. Oh yes, it is so comforting to have everything figured out--but that is not what God intended us to do with his thunderously emotive and challenging words.

Rhonda also said and I agree so much that ministers need to have an astonishing experience in scripture before they speak.

Haven't you ever had the experience of seeing new insights in a passage that you had missed despite numerous readings? There is something thrilling about that adventure--Neurons in our brain connect and synapses pop when new meanings appear "out of nowhere" birthed by our deep study and the aid of the Comforter.

Our old mantra of "the Bible says what it means and means what it says" or the phrase "the silence of the scripture" seem somehow dead when one reads the Bible as a LIVING word rather than a constitution or text book.

With the help of the Holy Spirit, we can learn to read the Bible for what it really says and inclucate the insights we gain into our transforming.

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