The Wrong Ways to Read the Bible
***Here is another article selected from the internet that was fitting to reproduce (with some editing) in our monthly church newsletter***
"…Read the Bible asking not mainly whom to imitate and how to live but what it shows us about a God who loves to save and about sinners who need saving.
Here are nine common but wrong ways to read the Bible:
The warm fuzzies approach—reading the Bible for a glowing, subjective experience of God, ignited by the words of the text, whether we understand what they actually mean or not.
Result: frothy reading.
The grumpy approach—reading the Bible out of nothing but a vague sense that we’re supposed to, to get God off our backs for the day.
Result: resentful reading.
The gold mine approach—reading the Bible as a vast, cavernous, dark mine, in which one occasionally stumbles upon a nugget of inspiration.
Result: confused reading.
The hero approach—reading the Bible as a moral hall of fame that gives us one example after another of heroic spiritual giants to emulate.
Result: despairing reading.
The rules approach—reading the Bible on the lookout for commands to obey to subtly reinforce a sense of personal superiority.
Result: Pharisaical reading.
The Indiana Jones approach—reading the Bible as an ancient document about events in the Middle East a few thousand years ago that are irrelevant to my life today.
Result: bored reading.
The magic eight-ball approach—reading the Bible as a road map to tell me where to work, whom to marry, and what car to buy.
Result: anxious reading.
The Aesop’s Fables approach—reading the Bible as a loose collection of nice stories strung together independently, each with a moral at end.
Result: disconnected reading.
The doctrine approach—reading the Bible as a theological repository to plunder for ammunition for our next theology debate at Starbucks.
Result: cold reading.
There is some truth to each of these approaches. But to make any of them the dominant lens through which we read Scripture is to turn the Bible into a book it was never intended to be. The right way to read the Bible is The gospel approach. This means we read every passage as somehow contributing to the single, overarching storyline of Scripture, which culminates in Jesus.
Just as you wouldn’t parachute into the middle of a novel, read a paragraph out of context, and expect to understand all that it means, you cannot expect to understand all that a passage of Scripture means without plotting it in the big arc of the Bible’s narrative. And the main story of the Bible is that God sent his Son, Jesus, to do what Adam and Israel and we ourselves have failed to do—honor God and obey him fully.
Every word in the Bible contributes to that message. Jesus himself said so. In a theology debate with the religious elite of the day, Jesus told those who claimed to be faithful to "The Bible," “If you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me” (John 5:46). Jesus told his disciples, “Everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms”—shorthand for the entire Old Testament--“must be fulfilled” (Luke 24:44).
The result of this approach is transforming reading. We become whole!"
- Dane C. Ortland
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