know what you believe: the Bible

Assignment 1,

BI.233 “The Bible and the Hermeneutics of Ministry,”

January 2019

Describe your beliefs about the Bible (one page, single-spaced).

When I hold myself still and think back on my beliefs about the Bible, I can see that I’ve been startlingly consistent. I’ve been reading since before I can remember, and I remember reading my children’s Bible with a different mindset than my storybooks. Sure, it was full of stories — that’s what children’s Bibles emphasize — but these weren’t pretend in the way my other stories were pretend. These were stories that connected to God, which made them (and makes the grown-up version) truthful in a deep, beyond-factual way. The Bible, for me, is a window to see the triune God through, its glass smeared by human limitations of language and comprehension but with God visible nonetheless.

As I read it again and again — after I turned six, I wasn’t allowed to bring other books into church, but I was welcome to ignore the sermon while reading the Bible — I found that what it articulated aligned with what I was observing about life in the world and in our family of faith. I had never been interested in a reportorial accuracy, so others’ complaints about, for example, Genesis’ lack of alignment with Time-Life’s Guide to Astronomy or Paleontology didn’t bother me. The humans depicted did very human things; the God depicted aligned with the loving, boundary-holding parents I was blessed to have. Not only that, but the world around me also affirmed that the Bible would tell me the truth. Thus I understood the Bible to be a reliable guide to my behavior and character. I acted (mostly) accordingly.

As I’ve moved from that time into and through adulthood, I see that I’ve held onto the Bible as a sacred text without particularly examining or articulating how I understand “sacred.” No doubt some of that is due to my tendencies toward mysticism, cemented by a time I heard God speak. I have a felt experience of sacredness, the Bible also lives inside that felt experience, and that works for me. Despite being a wordsmith — a poet — or perhaps expressly because I am, I can find word-explanations underwhelming and so have been willing to leave that understanding wordless. Still, this class has reminded me that as someone called to lead and teach, I will need to spend attention in wrapping enough words around this so that I can share my understanding — that is, where I stand — with others.

A fourth element I believe about the Bible is that it functions as a vehicle or conduit for connection with God. What I know about communication and connectedness is formed by my human relationships, and I know that to sustain these relationships I use shared topics and interests. I also use routines and prompts to remind me to converse and otherwise feed intimacy; without time and sharing, anyone’s sense of intimacy with another withers away. My human sense of intimacy with God operates under much the same rules, I find. Since God is not offering me a physical presence the way my spouse or dear friend does, I need something different to serve as that prompt or spur, and something that can offer the reciprocity inherent in conversation. Routine or structured time reading the Bible as God’s revealed Word offers me the prompting, the conversation, and the intimate time I find helpful in encouraging my faith in God.

I probably believe even more about the Bible as a whole than this. However, as the proverb says, everything must have a beginning, and this is a sufficient beginning for now.

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