Friday, September 09, 2005

Reading the Bible as a whole

Preachers are tempted to mine the Bible for little nuggets that "preach." That's why I appreciate Mark Loughridge's recent quote from J. I. Packer about reading the Bible. Here's my snippet from Mark's snippet from Packer's God's Plan for You:
. . . we are not in the habit of treating it as a book - a unit - at all; we approach it simply as a collection of separate stories and sayings. We take it for granted that these items represent either moral advice or comfort for those in trouble. So we read the Bible in small doses, a few verses at a time. We do not go through individual books, let alone the two Testaments, as a single whole. We browse through the rich old Jacobean periods of the King James Version or the informalities of the New Living Translation, waiting for something to strike us. When the words bring a soothing thought or a pleasant picture, we believe the Bible has done its job. We have come to view the Bible not as a book, but as a collection of beautiful and suggestive snippets, and it is as such that we use it. The result is that, in the ordinary sense of "read," we never read the Bible at all. We take it for granted that we are handling Holy Writ in the truly religious way, but this use of it is in fact merely superstitious. It is, I grant, the way of natural religiosity. But it is not the way of true religion.

God does not intend Bible reading to function simply as a drug for fretful minds.

The reading of Scripture is intended to awaken our minds, not to send them to sleep. God asks us to approach Scripture as his Word - a message addressed to rational creatures, people with minds, a message we cannot expect to understand without thinking about it. . . .the Bible comes to us as the product of a single mind, the mind of God. It proves its unity over and over again by the amazing way it links together, one part throwing light on another part. So we should read it as a whole. And as we read, we are to ask: What is the plot of this book? What is its subject? What is it about? Unless we ask these questions, we will never see what it is saying to us about our lives.

When we reach this point, we shall find that God's message to us is more drastic and at the same time more heartening than any that human religiosity could conceive.
I suppose this post is ironic: a snippet from a snippet about not reading the Bible in snippets. Well hey, brothers and sisters, whatever it takes.


Blogger Jeff Kuhn said...

I love this quote. I'm going to post it on my blog as well. Thanks for passing it on...


11:33 AM, September 10, 2005  
Blogger Milton Stanley said...

You're welcome.

9:22 PM, September 10, 2005  

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