Friday, February 22, 2013

Slow Bible - Part 3 of 3

We’ve been looking at the concept of ‘Slow Bible’ over the last few weeks. Firstly, rather than attempting to read through the Bible in a year, tackle 2 to 4 books of the Bible and read them in conversation with some friends. Secondly, invite an expert into the conversation. The expert won’t actually be there in the room or cafe, but you can invite someone like N.T. Wright into the conversation by taking on one of his For Everyone commentaries. The goal is better comprehension and application to life. Another good series is the NIV Application Commentary, like Wright’s For Everyone series, the biblical text is offered and then followed up with explanation and potential application to life. This of course involves a little more reading, hence ‘slow Bible’ rather than Bible-in-a-year but will lead to great discussions with your friends. Two more thoughts...


Thirdly, sometimes it’s helpful to step back and take a ‘bird’s eye view’ at things. This can be helpful when it comes to the bible. The Drama of Scripture by C.G. Bartholomew and M.W. Goheen is a fantastic introduction to the big story of the Bible. It breaks the big story of the bible into six acts with an interlude between acts 3 and 4 and will really help you to understand what the Biblical narrative is all about. Scot McKnight also has a book called The King Jesus Gospel. This book offers a bird’s eye view of the life of Jesus and the significance of Jesus for humanity. A must read.

Fourthly and finally, Christians believe that the Bible is a unique revelation of God to humankind. It’s a book like no other and is understood to be inspired by God (the various authors wrote in their own cultural context and language but they wrote under the inspiration of God); infallible (the Bible is not liable to deceive - when understood and interpreted correctly is trustworthy); and authoritative (the teaching, instruction and big story of the Bible is intended to inform and shape how we live our lives). We believe that even as the authors were inspired by God to write, God can inspire the readers as they read. This doesn’t mean the Bible says whatever we want it to say, but rather, when we engage in due diligence as readers it is amazing how God will speak into our hearts and lives today.

Make 2013 the year when you engage in some ‘slow’ Bible reading and be inspired as God speaks into your world.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Slow Bible - Part 2 of 3

I’m advocating ‘slow’ bible reading. Rather than a Bible-in-a-year plan I’m for a slower reading of the biblical narrative. Reading the Bible can be a daunting task and, to their credit, Bible-in-a-year plans attempt to make it less daunting. Slow reading however, is intended not only to make the Bible less daunting, but to also aid with the comprehension and application of God’s Word in the day to day of life’s journey. What might ‘slowreading’ that leads to ‘Bible living’ look like then?

Firstly, it is helpful to remember that the Bible was always intended to be read in ‘conversation’. Most of the books of the Bible are addressed to a community of people who would have engaged with the content in a discussion with each other, both the young and the old, the immature and the wise. Reading it in a ‘community’, with the benefit of the input of others, makes it much easier to make sense of. But to do this you need to slow down. Trying to read with a friend (or a group of friends)as well as inviting an expert into the discussion means 3.2 chapters every day for 365 days will simply be impossible. Don’t even worry about this. Aim instead to tackle a couple of books of the bible in a year, perhaps between 2 and 4. Relax with this as a goal, read and converse. 


Secondly, you might be wondering where can you find an expert to join your discussion? They’re not that hard to find, the experts write books!  N.T. Wright, one of the world’s leading Bible scholars, has a series of books called For Everyone in which he explains in simple terms what’s going on in the various books of the New Testament. Just Google John for Everyone or Romans for Everyone. Get a couple of friends working through a For Everyone book and meet up to discuss from time to time. Your comprehension and of course with it, the challenge to apply the Bible to your daily life will go through the roof. You’ll also be able to encourage, provoke and challenge each other along the way. As well as enjoying each other’s company.

Make a start – it’ll be worth the effort.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Slow Bible - Part 1 of 3

You might have heard of Slow Food or The Slow Food Movement. It advocates for regional produce, organically grown food, food prepared with care and nutritious food. It’s a contrast to fast food like takeaways and microwave meals; meals which are obviously not always the healthiest option. In a culture often obsessed with fast (food),ultra-fast (broadband), and even instant (noodles); slow goes against the grain. We even seem to be obsessed with speed when it comes to reading the Bible. Bible-in-a-year plans encourage us that in just 3.2 chapters a day we can read our way through the whole Bible in 365 days.
That’s a pretty quick when you consider you’re attempting to read, contextualize, comprehend, and apply to 21st Century life an historic document that is 2000 + years old and originally written in Hebrew and Greek. Notwithstanding if you get a couple of days or weeks behind you’re going to be reading like crazy to catch up!

I’d encourage you to embrace ‘slow’ Bible reading, especially when we remember that the goal is ‘Bible living’ not simply ‘Bible reading’. The Bible contains the big story of God at work in our world. In this big story it is possible to make sense of humanity’s story, of this mysterious and beautiful world we live in, and of our own individual stories and experiences. The Bible, as God’s Word invites, inspires and challenges us to re-orientate the whole way we live. It frees us from our own small worlds and the ruts we get ourselves into. It invites us to be lost and found in God’s great love story. Viewed like this, reading the Bible is an enticing proposition and potentially life changing experience.

It’s not always an easy book however. Filled with genealogies, enigmatic poetry, quirky stories and letters written to particular people in a particular time and context far removed from our own 21st Century postmodern world; it’s a grand-narrative to be worked through slowly rather than in a great rush. A qualitative reading of comprehension and application will be a hands down healthier approach than a quantitative reading of a quickly consumed daily word count.