Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Why Let the Bible Shape Our Lives

Why should we Christians let the Bible shape our lives? Put more strongly, why do we assert that the Bible should inform and form who we are and what we do?

These questions arise acutely if we take seriously the exegetical criterion of reading in context. Namely, if we must read a Biblical passage first in its context without importing our contemporary and personal context, to the extent that we can do this, we must ask why something from another context, especially an ancient one, should have any significant bearing on our lives. If it is difficult to read in context, and if it is difficult to bring forward anything from that context to our own, why should we let that occur, why should we feel it ought to occur? It is one thing to say that we find an ancient text interesting, such that we want to understand it as well as possible, so we must read it in context as far as possible. It is another thing to say we must read it in context as well as possible because we must discover if it is relevant to our context and, if it is, let it shape our context as far as possible.

We could answer generally that we may and perhaps ought to read and understand well any text, including ancient texts, because we may and perhaps ought to learn from the wisdom of others. It is unwise to think our own selves so capable and right that we become snobs of truth, to assume that we are so advanced and superior compared to what others have thought, especially the ancients. In general, then, we should read other texts with an openness.

Yet this general openness is not sufficient to explain why we read and try to contemporize the Bible as we do. The only sufficient reasons are the axioms (1) that in some way the Bible is God communicating to us and (2) that God communicates to us, then and now, to inform and form who we are and what we ought to do; that is, to communicate what creation ought to be and to bring creation into being as it ought to be. Only on these bases are there compelling reasons why we let, why we must let, the Bible (God, really) from its time and place shape us in our time and place, that we might more truly and fully live in that creation which is God's time and place for us.