Chapter 2: Bible and Life

kells-catmouse1-300x166The Book of Kells at Trinity College, Dublin is filled with fascinating art, Celtic patterns, and symbolism[1], but one of my favorites is a drawing of a cat chasing a mouse, which in turn has a piece of the Eucharistic bread in its mouth. That humorous image (apparently a common problem at the time in churches and monasteries) stands out to me. It makes me think how Christ reaches into even the smallest and most everyday cares. It also reminds me that, as we strive to have a relationship with God, something or other is always threatening to carry off our spiritual resolve, and in some cases to hamper faith.

Many of us do keep up with a religious life as best we can amid many other aspects of our lives: we’ve jobs we like or hate, we have and think about sex, follow favorite sports teams, enjoy pastimes, love (and deal with) our families, love our pets, worry about money, carry deep wounds, and wish certain things about life were different. We take time amid other activities to volunteer at our congregations and other local organizations. The theologian Karl Barth famously said that we should read the Bible and the newspaper together,[2] but reading news sources is itself an integration of your personal life and activities with the world at large, and the Bible can give us the framework for both. The temptation, though, is to fail to integrate all three (personal life, the world, and the Bible), so that you’re a churchgoer whose opinions and attitudes are formed only partially by Bible teachings, or you’re a decent person who has never sought the living God through his Spirit-gifted Word.

My own life is on the whole wonderful (no major illness at the moment, for instance) but never stress-free or grief free. Like many millions of people in my age group, I’ve had simultaneous care of two generations. For several years my widowed mother lived in a nursing home and I managed her financial matters. Her affairs, especially health care regulations for the elderly, have been complex. I received advice and help from knowledgeable people. One of the saddest chores, from which I’ve still not recovered emotionally, was selling my childhood home, where Mom lived nearly fifty years.  But then Mom’s health took a downturn and she passed away in hospice care. The empty place in my heart that began with my dad’s death and then the sale of the home has now widened.  I know that for all my sure confidence in eternal life—that my parents are indeed recipients of all the Bible’s most precious promises—that I’ll live the remainder of my life with that empty place within, until I, too, receive those promises.  Like most of us, though, I want to enjoy as much of this sweet life for as long as I can; the hope for a long, full life is, after all, a biblical hope, too, and not only Paul’s eagerness to be with the Lord as soon as possible (Phil. 1:23-24).

Meanwhile my daughter has grown up.  Throughout her childhood and teenage years, I stayed home with her every summer. During one of the summers of this project, my wife and I helped her get ready for college three hours away, and we also helped her learn to drive. To paraphrase a saying, there are no atheists in the passenger seat of a newly learning driver. But she learned quickly. She had success in college and will soon pursue graduate studies. The empty nest is peaceful, but when she “flies” back, the family feels complete again.

All these experiences, common to so many people, inspire me to prayer—even though I’m a “pray-er on the run” most days.  They’re occasions that call for “extra grace.” As long as Mom lived I frequently asked God for confidence as I managed her affairs, for comfort for her lonely circumstance, for guidance and protection for my daughter (the world is filled with “weirdos” and risky situations), and many other things. Recognizing the comparative stability my own life (and recognizing my very human tendency to feel my own problems more urgently), I think to pray for persons who have much harder circumstances.  I love this quote by Oswald Chambers: “The real business of your life as a saved soul is intercessory prayer. Wherever God puts you in circumstances, pray immediately, pray that His Atonement may be realized in other lives as it has been in yours. Pray for your friends now; pray for those with who you come in contact now.”[3] A regular prayer life balances both personal and intercessory prayer, which in turn balances and empowers your daily responsibilities.

These are not the only aspects of my life, of course. My wife and I have been married for over twenty-five years and friends for over thirty-five. She has a complex and difficult job, which she does love, and which she’s developed (thanks to very providential steps) over the years. I teach college classes, freelance-write curriculum for the laity on religious topics, and volunteer at our church. Bridging academic and parish work has always been very important to me. I ask God for help with these things, too: for my and my family’s well-being, for the well-being of my students and people we know, for the people (unknown to me) who’ll read things I publish, for the ministries of our church. None of these things is “within my control.” Life can be strange and unpredictable even for the most conscientious pray-er. I’m a terrible worrier; God has not removed the trait even in my most sincerely relinquishing moments (2 Cor. 12:9-10), and so I pray.

My grandma Grace died in her sleep in a late-evening house fire when I was fifteen, an event that, among other things, gave me an excellent object lesson in the unpredictability of life and the seeming absence of God when tragedy strikes.[4]  My parents and I, with no sense of foreboding, were waiting for Johnny Carson’s monologue, and the phone rang, the local fire department … I learned at a young age to make one’s life count, because you really don’t know what’s ahead (and that, of course, is a biblical teaching), and that you may live the rest of your life with strong questions you’d ask God.  I learned to try to have a positive, encouraging outlook in my everyday contacts; I hate the thought, for instance, that the only memory people may have of you and me is a negative, critical one. Have you ever spoken harshly to or otherwise hurt someone, whom you never saw again?

Here’s another favorite quote, this one by Mozart: “I never lie down at night without reflecting that—young as I am—I may not live to see another day. Yet no one of all my acquaintances could say that in company I am morose and disgruntled. For this blessing I daily thank my Creator and wish with all my heart that each one of my fellow-creatures could enjoy it.”[5]  One of my favorite scriptures, James 4:13-15, calls us to be mindful of our inability to see the future, and to seek God’s guidance in the things we say and do.

Although I received religious instruction as a boy, I didn’t enter adulthood with a strong theological outlook, in the sense that I had to painfully discard childhood viewpoints.  I sympathize with people who’ve had to do that. I did, however, have a very strong discomfort about wearing one’s religious heart on the sleeve.  I dislike it when persons share their faith as if they’re working a crowd, gaining admirers.  Sometimes, overly pious people make me uncomfortable.  In the past I trusted a few very religious folks who turned out to be hurtful or mean, didn’t keep a confidence, or in their own minds were never wrong. On the other hand, people who share strong faith in a natural, helpful way are so wonderful, like the hometown classmate who wrote prayers for me during my mother’s final illness and death.

But that raises an important question: how do you share faith in a way that is very honest and genuine—that doesn’t turn off people to God if you and I act like a jerks? When you’re religious, you’re held to high standards in people’s perceptions; but on the other hand, your religion is not about you, and, in fact, you want to guide people beyond your own personality to the God who does for us that which we cannot do for ourselves, which is to save us (give us eternal life in this life and forever), and to transform us for loving service. Being a Christian is always a balance between being a sincere, fallible, and, yes, very sinful person, and simultaneously being transparent to God’s grace and a blessing for others, a clay jar filled with heavenly treasure (2 Cor. 4:7).[6]

In case you wonder whether I’m a fundamentalist because I’m enthusiastic about Bible content, I’m not. I’ve always been interested in other viewpoints. Truth is neither relative nor subjective; nor is it solitary. I’ve Christian friends, from liberal to moderate to conservative, and also friends who profess other religions, friends who have been hurt and discouraged by religious people, and a few friends who are agnostics or atheists. I’m currently a member of two interfaith dialogue groups. I love other faiths, as well as science and philosophy. The ideas, discoveries, and beliefs of others, in turn, help me think about my own religion and scriptures. For instance, my Jewish friends have taught me a lot, and I seek ways to understand the Gospel that are not anti-Jewish.[7] I’ve also learned things from humanist friends who show me how someone with a secular viewpoint perceives my religion. Although I’ve committed my life to the uniqueness and power of Jesus Christ, I dearly hope God provides ways by which persons outside the circle of Christian witness can experience that power and grace.[8] I strongly believe that if we are not kind and humble in our faith—if we are unwilling to allow God to know more than we do about the mysteries of grace—then we risk becoming closed to God and one another.[9]

We all come to the Bible with different attitudes and experiences. The Spirit helps us interpret the Bible amid our special circumstances, just as that same Spirit helped the disciples when difficult circumstances arose (for instance, the Jerusalem conference, Acts 15). To make our personal experiences the norm of our Bible interpretation—and to assume our experiences should be normative for others—is always a temptation. That’s one reason why the Bible is best read and understood in a group of diverse people. Ephesians 4:15-16 defines the church as a place of mutual support and maturing.  The Bible not only shapes us but also shapes a faithful congregation in which people love one another, the Word is preached, and the sacraments are shared.[10]  As God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in eternal relationship as the one Lord, so we are complete as human beings when we share in relationship with one another. But on the other hand, in the realities of everyday life, finding a fellowship that nurtures you as a Christian person isn’t always easy. As we live open to the Spirit, however, the Spirit gifts us with varieties of approaches to spirituality depending upon our individual circumstances, experiences and personalities.[11] God uses many circumstances in order to bless our lives—and God does will to bless us and to share his divine life with us, through the Bible and other ways.

We tend, at least informally, to perceive the Bible as a something separate from God’s grace in our lives today—as if the Bible were infallible legislation written long ago. The Bible tells us everything we’re not supposed to do—lie, swear, get angry, commit adultery, and so on—and everything we’re supposed to do—forgive people, pray, go to church, tithe. In other words, the Bible is an instruction for behavior, a book we can literally or figuratively lob at someone’s head if they haven’t shaped up. But although the Bible most certainly defines and instructs behavior, it is much more than that. It is a living witness to God, a sometimes exasperating compendium of teachings and details, written from different points of view with different literary styles and genres over many centuries, and yet providing us the timeless promises that inform and guide us. For those who enjoy digging into the text or learning about it from sermons and books, the Bible tells us who we really are, and how we can count on God’s grace.  The Bible is of a piece with—never, ever separate from—the Spirit who gives us life and power every day.

And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work (2 Cor. 9:8)

Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen (Eph. 3:20-21).

Consequently he is able for all time to save those who approach God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them (Heb. 7:25).

I worry that, in our reverence for the book, we hate to admit that it is a long, very complex book. I consider a 600- or 700-page book pretty long (I spent weeks getting through the nearly 1100 industrial and philosophical pages of Atlas Shrugged, for instance), but my old Harper’s Study Bible has 1889 pages from Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21, not including the concordance and maps at the end. Each individual Bible book is the subject of many explanatory textbooks that consider the original authors’ and editors’ viewpoints, the linguistic and textual challenges, and points of interpretation. Because the Bible can seem daunting, plenty of churchgoing Christians, including congregational leaders, scarcely venture into the text. But if they’ve comparatively little Bible knowledge, Christians risk having an anemic faith, a “child’s milk” faith (Heb. 5:12-14), or a faith based on “the world’s” values of success and self-reliance.

And yet, we miss something wonderful if we let our faith stay shallow with regard to the scriptures.  Rabbis put a drop of honey on scriptural texts, to remind students that God’s word is sweet.[12] You can enjoy the Bible via different ways that are by no means mutually exclusive. You can read the Bible in a devotional way, perhaps in connection with devotional booklets like Upper Room, Christ in the Home, Our Daily Bread, and others. Another way to begin reading the Bible devotionally is to think along with your church’s weekly texts.  For instance, your minister may preach according to the weekly lectionary lessons; follow along with those readings.  Or your minister may select her or his scriptures according to sermons series and current congregational needs.  Try studying those scriptures each week and be attentive to your minister’s preaching.  Another approach, which can overlap these, is lectio divina (divine reading), a meditative way of reading scripture, praying with scripture, and seeking communion with God, usually during an hour.[13]

(If you try any of these ways, don’t not to beat up on yourself if a style of Bible reading isn’t helpful, or if you miss some time because of other situations.  Find a style that you enjoy, from which you take pleasure and peace.)

You can read the Bible closely to understand its literary characteristics, for instance, the distinctive styles of the different authors, allusions and metaphors, and so on. Our Sunday school class in Ohio studied Hosea. Encountering references to Gibeah and Baal-peor in 9:9-10, and having no clue what those words means, we stopped and looked up the alluded-to stories, Judges 19 (possibly the Bible’s most horrible story) and Numbers 25 respectively. Factual knowledge of the Bible may also be a part of your devotional study as well, depending on your interests.

You can also study the Bible in terms of its textual and editorial development. In college and seminary I was fascinated to learn the theories, methods, and types of higher criticism. For instance, in a dominant critical theory about the formation of the Synoptic gospels, Mark was written first and then used as a source, among others, for Matthew and Luke.  Similarly the Documentary Hypothesis—the theory that the Torah is comprised of several independent writings, edited together—and the Deuteronomistic History, a postulated source that lies behind the material of Deuteronomy through 2 Kings.[14]

You can also study the Bible in terms of typology, a method used by the New Testament authors by which people, institutions, and occurrences are related to later ones, especially to Jesus. Typology is similar to prophetic fulfillment—yet another complex theme that you can study—but typology includes biblical material that is not specifically prophecy: for instance, the connection of Jeremiah 31:15 and Matthew 2:18.[15] The first chapter of the letter to the Hebrews sets out a complex set of scriptures—some that have no apparent bearing at all upon messianic prophecy—which the author uses to prove the primacy of Christ.[16]

I hate to compartmentalize; I appreciate all these approaches, and others. For me, Bible study is fun. That is potentially a shallow sort of word, but part of my emotional response to the Bible is a happy feeling that I enjoy when I’m doing something pleasurable and worthwhile. Using the Bible for preaching, teaching, calling people to accountability, and ethical decision-making all have important places.  But partly because I’ve built Bible reading into the whole of my warts-and-all life, I enjoy from Bible study a sense of peace that, in turn, is rooted in the presence of God.

*****

Scan 22For me: that sense of peace is connected to a sense of place. How is it with you? Are there special places in your life that are inseparable from your sense of God and God’s word?

Everyone who knows me knows I feel blessed to have locations of personal roots: my hometown, Vandalia, Illinois; and my mother’s hometown, Brownstown, Illinois; an rural farming area called Four Mile Prairie, traversed by “blue highway” Route 185; and other parts of the surrounding Fayette County associated with family (especially along the two-lane U.S. 40 and U.S. 51).  My grandma Grace attended two churches, the small Four Mile Church near her home, and the First Christian Church up in Brownstown.  My uncle said there had been a place called Noah’s Ark Church somewhere in Grandma’s township, but the place had been gone for many years.  So was the “Hard Shell Baptist” church where some distant kin attended, like Grandma’s great-uncle Charlie Pilcher who lived along the road that became 185 and always attended the Baptists’ annual foot-washing service. That whole side of the family—Mom’s side—-settled Four Miles before the Civil War, and my identity has been shaped by memories of Grandma, her old farm house, the Four Mile and Brownstown areas, the country roads we traveled in that area, the timber beyond farmers’ fields, the places where other relatives lived or hadlived, and the way generations of our family (imperfect as any, and unhappy in their own ways as Tolstoy famously said) esteemed churchgoing and Bible reading. Theological truth, family ties, the Bible, small churches, and country vistas all sentimentally mixed in my mind, forever. In a manner of speaking, reading the Bible always puts me back on 185 at Four Mile and other local roads, puts me back into home places.

How has Jesus gotten into your genealogy (as a pastor friend puts it)? That is, how has your personal and family history become gifted with the living Lord, working with us according to our personalities, imperfections, and needs and across the generations? I355_31627688518_5063_n like to think of such things when I return home and I walk the family cemetery that I mentioned earlier. I think about the lives and sorrows of these people, and the religious epitaphs on the tombstones of some. As a little boy, I even imagined being at the cemetery at the moment of the last trumpet (1 Cor. 15:52) when my kinfolk rose to meet the Lord. I fancied they’d be interested to meet me.

Scan 6Among our family heirlooms, I’ve a cardboard “Farmer’s Pride Rolled Oats” box in which my great-grandfather John Crawford (1864-1927) kept checks, receipts, letters, time tables for the old Vandalia Railroad, and other items.  John and his wife Susan (1867-1926) and their family lived near Brownstown. (Here they are in 1899.) Grandma, who was the couple’s oldest daughter-in-law, gave me the box many years ago.  I took it from the shelves recently and looked through the papers. An item that makes me sigh is a bill for an eight-day hospital stay: $45. My mother’s daily nursing home costs were nearly three times that amount … but, of course, wages and the value of currency are different compared to the 1920s.  John and Susan also kept several Sears credit vouchers for 2 cents and 3 cents.  I’ve considered jokingly taking them to a store and redeem them for the value and interest.

I like one item in particular.  John and Susan kept a page from “Our Senior Lesson Quarterly” for October-November-December 1906. On one side is a hymn, “Is He Yours?” Jesus is my Savior, is he yours?OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  Is he yours? Jesus Christ is my Redeemer, is he yours? Is he yours? Of his love and grace I sing, while my heart crowns him its King; Jesus is my Savior, is he yours?  On the other side are thoughts by the quarterly’s editor. Under the heading “The Book and the Century,” he writes, This old Book will survive the century. It has lighted men all round so far, and there is a world of light to shine out from it upon all sorts of positions and all sorts of questions … Brethren, let us study the Bible; let us love it; let us obey it; and if we do, we shall share in its immortality. ‘All flesh is grass, and all the glory of man is the flower of grass. The grass withereth and the flower falleth away, but the word of the Lord endureth forever.’ [Isa. 40: 6, 8] Let us identify ourselves with that eternal righteousness of which this book is the oracle; and he that doeth the will of God abideth forever.”

I suppose John and Susan kept the sheet because of the hymn. But I gravitated to the editor’s words. He doesn’t express optimism about the 20th century, which would’ve been appropriate in 1906, though not from 1914 on. Instead, he expresses optimism about the power of God to guide and instruct us, far into the future. “This old Book will survive the century … there is a world of light to shine out from it upon all sorts of positions and all sorts of questions.”

I must’ve been a teenager when I first read this sheet, because that was the time I traced the Crawford family history, beginning in Four Mile, from the notes and records that Grandma gave to me. I must’ve agreed with the words. I suppose the happiness of holding my great-grandparents’ personal papers became mixed with my mostly positive but still unfocused sentiments about the Bible and church, gained from Grandma and other relatives. But not too many years later, I began to find that “world of light” irresistible, and I began a still-current pilgrimage of questions and answers and more questions (and more answers, and …).

Link to Chapter 3


[1]  Bernard Meehan, The Book of Kells, London: Thames & Hudson, 1994.

[2]   The source of this saying is discussed at the Center for Barth Studies website, http://libweb.ptsem.edu/collections/barth/faq/quotes.aspx?menu=296&subText=468

[3]   David McCasland, compiler and editor, The Quotable Oswald Chambers, (Grand Rapids, MI: Discovery House Publishers, 2008), 206, emphasis in the text.

[4]  I reflect more deeply about my grandmother’s death in my book You Gave Me a Wide Place: Holy Places of Our Lives (Nashville, TN: Upper Room Books, 2006), 92-95.

Another life changing professor for me was Luke Timothy Johnson. In his book The Writings of the New Testament: An Interpretation (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1986) writes of the importance of “symbolic worlds,” the “systems of meanings that anchors the activities of individuals and communities in the real world” (page 12). Tragedies happen that shatter such worlds and yet we continue to search for meaning and understanding. He uses the “dialectic of experience and interpretation” (page 17) in his New Testament study regarding the symbolic worlds of the New Testament and the interpretation of a new reality based on the experience of the risen Christ.

[5]   From Hans Kűng, Mozart: Traces of Transcendence (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1993), 24, and also in Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics, Volume III, The Doctrine of Creation, Part Four (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1961), 589.

[6]   Martin Luther had a saying, Pecca fortiter, sed fortius fide et gaude in Christo, “sin boldly, but even more boldly believe and rejoice in Christ.” He meant that, as a help for a guilty conscience, we can have a realistic self-assessment of ourselves as imperfect and sinful—but as saved sinners because of the power and grace of Christ

[7]   Because Christians see Christ as the fulfillment of Old Testament scripture, we read and interpret the Bible with Christ in mind.  But Jews read the same scripture in a different tradition: the development of rabbinic Judaism. I try to be sensitive to and aware of this different reading of the scriptures, conscious of the tragic history of disdain and persecution wrought by the church upon Jews at different times of history. I’m sensitive to the fact that, if I were a Jew who reads the numerous negative references to “the Jews” in the New Testament, I’d have a hard time seeing benefit in this material.

Several good books explain the anti-Jewish roots of Christianity, for example, Julie Galambush, The Reluctant Parting: How the New Testament’s Jewish Writers Created a Christian Book, (New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 2005); and Amy-Jill Levine, The Misunderstood Jew: The Church and the Scandal of the Jewish Jesus (New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 2006).

[8]  This is a classically challenging theological issue. Scripture undeniably attests to the uniqueness of God’s revelation in Christ and the power available in his name (John 14:6; Acts 4:12). Christians stake our faith and lives upon the truth of this witness. And yet God loves the whole world (John 3:16), and so does God provide kinds of mercy to people outside the circle of Christian witness? How does God show mercy to those hurt by the injustice wrought by Christians and Christian societies? Two Vatican II documents express an optimism concerning the mystery of God’s saving grace. Lumen Gentium states, “Those also can attain to everlasting salvation who through no fault of their own do not know the gospel of Christ or His Church, yet sincerely seek God and, moved by grace, strive by their deeds to know his will as it is known to them through the dictates of conscience. Nor does divine Providence deny the help necessary for salvation to those who, without blame on their part, have not yet arrived at an explicit knowledge of God, but who strive to live a good life, thanks to His grace.” Gaudium et Spes also states, “For since Christ died for all people … we ought to believe that the Holy Spirit in a manner known only to God offers to every person in the possibility of being associated with this paschal mystery” (my emphasis). Both these quotations are from Elizabeth A. Johnson, Quest for the Living God: Mapping Frontiers in the Theology of God (New York: Continuum, 2008), 155-156.

[9]  Somehow we forget that fact when we uphold the Bible; the Bible itself calls us to put away out self-justifying and uncompassionate attitudes. Just one example—a painful one—is the issue of suicide. (This topic is on my mind because, as I wrote this book, a former student took his life. I don’t know the family but I hoped they had compassionate people who helped them.) How many families have suffered because someone implied, twisting an implication out of scripture, that suicide is an unforgivable sin? The Bible calls us to preach Good News that heals and loves; our witness must always be kind, helpful, and motivated by building-up rather than judging and hurting (Eph. 4:14-24).

[10]  Stanley Hauerwas has argued the essentialness of a believing congregation in Bible reading, in his Unleashing the Scripture: Freeing the Bible from Captivity to America (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1993).

[11]  Corinne Ware helpfully explores ways that people learn and grow spiritually in different ways and helps them understand “types” of spirituality that individuals and congregations embrace: Discover Your Spiritual Type: A Guide to Individual and Congregational Growth (Washington, D.C.: The Alban Institute, 1995).

[12]   Shane Claiborne, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, Enuma Okoro, Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010), 68

[13]   One can find numerous sources for performing lectio divina; see, for instance, the United Church of Christ site, http://i.ucc.org/FeedYourSpirit/SpiritCafe/HowtoPraywiththeBible/tabid/89/Default.aspx

On traditional types of Bible reading and interpretation, see also Diogenes Allen, Spiritual Theology: The Theology of Yesterday for Spiritual Help Today (Cambridge: Cowley Publications, 1997), chapter 9.

[14]  Walter Brueggemann provides an excellent summary of biblical scholarship—specifically in the field of Old Testament studies—in the modern period, including the development and representatives of historical and other types of criticism, and varieties of approaches: Theology of the Old Testament: Testimony, Dispute, Advocacy (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1997), chapters 1 and 2. See also Bart D. Ehrman,The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997).

I was privileged to study briefly with the theologian Hans Frei. In his book The Eclipse of Biblical Narrative: A Study in Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century Hermeneutics (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1974), he describes the “figural interpretation” of the Bible wherein a reader placed herself within the story: for instance, she experiences the forgiveness of God when reading about the heartbroken publican. (As an aside, I think Charles Wesley’s hymns do this brilliantly.) But Frei argues that the literal and figural meanings of the Bible broke down with the rise of scientific questions and critical studies. This resulted in more tools for biblical interpretation but a “distancing” of pre-scientific, figural readings. Frei, Eclipse, 2-3, 6, discussed in my book What About Religion and Science: A Study of Reason and Faith (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2007), 104-105.

Peter Gomes remarks that the European traditions of biblical interpretation, while valuable, are different from traditions of black preaching, which “endeavors to remove as many barriers between the thing preached and those to whom it is preached as quickly as possible, so that the ‘objective’ story becomes with very little effort, ‘our’ story, or ‘my’ story.” Gomes, The Good Book: Reading the Bible with Mind and Heart (New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 1996), 340-341, quoted in Stroble, What About Religion and Science, 106.

[15]  Typology, in terms of Christ-focused preaching, is discussed in Graeme Goldsworthy, Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000), 76-80, 109-114, 255-256.

[16] Gerhard von Rad was a twentieth-century scholar noted for, among other things, an appreciation of typology in Old Testament theological interpretation; see Brueggemann, Theology of the Old Testament, 31-38.

Yale Divinity School professor R. Lansing Hicks (a wonderful teacher) wrote a short book Forms of Christ in the Old Testament: The Problem of the Christological Unity of the Bible, the William C. Winslow Memorial Lectures of 1968 at Seabury-Western Theological Seminary. Hicks quotes von Rad’s question: “how far can Christ be a help to the exegete in understanding the Old Testament, and how far can the Old Testament be a help to him [or her] in understanding Christ?” (p. 6) Hicks offers a form-content approach which, by the end, also give us a stronger appreciation of the Old Testament and provides ideas for ecumenical dialogue. Sometimes the form of Old Testament words and actions (or a coalescence of the two) can be read as having a content of Christ, but sometimes there is reciprocal movement between the testaments.

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3 thoughts on “Chapter 2: Bible and Life

  1. Pingback: My Family: the Crawfords | Grace, Place, and the Like

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