Sunday, June 3, 2012

Why I Don't Enjoy Reading My Bible


I confess no. I generally don't enjoy reading my Bible. Why?

Because more often than not, I don't hear Paul, Matthew, Peter or Jesus. Instead I hear Bruce, Craig, Blomberg or Warfield. This isn't such a bad thing, but it really began to bug me about a year ago.

I think it boils down to a few different things. I dislike hearing voices in my head, pointing out Greek words, various meanings and whether or not Matthew 25 is indeed a parable.

I dislike having to digest the words of other people when the words on the page are what I'm trying to ponder. I do think we need translators and commentators, but I am annoyed that we seem to create symmetry between their words and the words of Scripture.

But none of this really means much. Often, it feels like one has to read the Bible in order to defend it, not to learn from it. As I read through Judges and various prophetic books, I instantly began to wonder how to "defend" the character of God. Or if these verses are historical, or mass interpolations. Sexism, racism, murder, rape and all those friendly evangelist themes that don't quite fit on the back of a Bible tract.

It isn't much to explain, but to simply reflect on such thoughts often helps to put one's mind on the right track. To wonder about the scope and character of God, but to also reflect on our own mortality and character. Either way, the Bible offers quite a bit to chew on.

God help us if we're wrong, and God help everyone else if we're right.

--Nick

13 comments:

  1. Not sure if you'd be interested or not, but I'd love to repost this on my blog...

    Let me know!

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    1. Hey Matthew!

      Would be honored. Just include a link if you would be so kind, and I would love to read my post on your awesome blog. ;)

      --Nick

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  2. i'm kinda in the middle. there are times when i love reading the bible, and times when i don't. usually when it's easy to follow a narrative or similar, then i like it. when i get to less narrative type books like jeremiah or hebrews, i tend not to like it as much.

    i don't particularly hear craig or other theologians/philosopher's voices in my head while reading the bible though. i think you might be going looney on us my friend.

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    1. Hey Marius.

      It often depends for me. Like you said, sometimes it is easy, other times it is more difficult. Anytime I read Romans or the Gospels or epistles, I hear others barking in my ear. But, read Genesis and holy smokes, it just got easier. ;)

      --Nick

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  3. Interesting post..especially about reading to know and learn from it as oppose for the purpose of defending! Would love to hear more thoughts on it, and also on how you would move beyond the 'struggle' to read, since it's so essential.

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    1. Hey Mike!

      I might write an extended post in the future. As a general rule, I try to forget about everything and just approach the text. Which never works because, well, we're human and we have baggage and all that good stuff.

      But simply "trying" has, for me, helped a bit.

      --Nick

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  4. Hey Nick,

    I appreciate what you are saying here. I recall many years ago when I cried out to God about horrific accounts in the Bible. I sensed from God that I would never completely understand them and to appreciate that many of the accounts originated in an ancient context of Assyrian and Babylonian oppression. I also needed to see the accounts in the context of progressive revelation. For example, I do not make conclusions about the character of God from the books of Moses and Deuteronomistic history without filtering them through the lens of the New Testament.

    By the way, my last blog post summarized the role of Mosaic Law in Christianity, but I am unsure if that will help or hust your cause : -)

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    1. Hey James!

      Thanks, as usual, for your thoughts. I shall steal -- err -- borrow your post. Looks pretty epic.

      I do prescribe to Progressive Revelation, so that does lend some support. ;)

      --Nick

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  5. Hey Man,

    Was just introduced to your blog. Will have to subscribe! I go through the same things sometimes, as if sometimes someone opened a window, letting all this light and smell and sound in from outside, and then other times...nothing (tempts me to be a Bartian). One thing I have found that helps is getting out of my regular rhythm of reading, instead focusing on a sentence and maybe even individual words. It even helps me to just read the Greek to get away from the english translation I am so used to.

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    1. Hey Scott!

      Thanks! Your comment about letting in light and sensory attitudes is compelling. Much thanks. ;)

      --Nick

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  6. I love the picture with it's advice :) And I agree that sometimes reading the Bible doesn't *do* anything, and is sometimes downright unenjoyable, even unpleasant (what we used to call, "A DRAG"). I also enjoyed the various comments here on which parts -- narrative, poetry, doctrine, biography, etc. -- are more, or less, enjoyable. Thanks, all.

    I say just read, read, read. If you're not "getting" (or enjoying) something from what you're reading, just read somewhere else! The Bible is an incredibly varied collection of writings, some of which comes from an incredibly varied and ancient oral tradition, all of which is magnificent, beautiful, provoking, and in one way or another the Very Word of God! There's plenty there, and it's all in one handy book, so just read, read, read, and try another part if your particular part just ain't happ'nin to be sayin' somethin' immediately.

    I also recommend reading from different translations, and from different physical, or digital, books.
    http://www.biblegateway.com/

    Also, if you ask and invite the Holy Spirit to help and guide you when you're reading, I *guarantee* that Almighty God will give you some enlightenment from *some* portion of your reading.

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  7. Hey Nick,

    I've felt that way before too, for sure. I've read through my Bible probably about six times by now. A few of those times were because Dad told me to; it was like a family rule. Some of the other times were because I heard over and over again from the pulpit that reading your Bible is the best thing for Christians to do, especially if they want to become better Christians.

    Sometimes I got really frustrated with it. I remember one particular day about six years ago when I was praying, angry with God for trying to have a relationship with us but only giving us a book through which to have a relationship. Seriously, who does that? But in the middle of my frustration, God whispered to me "I have loved you with an everlasting love." I was still not impressed. So what? Then I heard, in my mind, "...therefore, I have have drawn you with cords of lovingkindness." I couldn't argue with that. All of my questions faded in the face of His love.

    Sometimes those questions come back. Is the Bible really God's Word? How can we know what it really means? How do we know they got the right books in there?

    The reality I've come to accept is that my faith is not a primarily mental exercise. It's spiritual. Yes, I debate verses and meanings all day, but that's different from reading to connect relationally with God.

    I sometimes feel bad about cherry picking specific verses to read, but then I decided I'm not going to feel bad about that. So lately, I haven't read anything that wasn't written by John.

    Micah

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  8. When I graduated college with a B.A. in Religion I was convinced I would abandon my faith. After all the research, and exegetical papers I wrote I felt as if I had no voice left in my relationship with God, or within the Body of Christ. The Bible, Jesus, God, and the Holy Spirit had become these sterile, academic concepts during the last two years of my collegiate career.
    By God's grace, it merely was another stepping stone in deconstructing my identity as a "Christian" in order to build me up in Christ alone. God has been bringing me back to some simple truths: my relationship with Him should be based on who He says He is in His Word, and who He says I am in Christ, who is what everything is filtered through. As much as biblical scholars can affect our engagement with the Word, I think other believer's with their "social justice" causes can affect our application of it.
    I love The Jesus Storybook Bible. It was written for kids, but it's fantastic for all ages and Every story points to Christ.
    I appreciate your honesty, Nick. And know that you are not alone.

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