Avoiding the Text? Reflections On Reading in Community

nrsv bible

My wife and I recently joined a new small group at our church and I we’re both pretty excited about. Over the past 8 years or so I can’t really think of a small group that I was a part of but wasn’t leading in some capacity, so this is the first group where we can enjoy a non-leadership role for awhile. Another reason why this small group appeals to us is because it’s a Bible study, that’s right, and old school Bible study. We’re going to be reading and discussing Paul’s letter to the Colossians, and reading the book “Colossians Remixed: Subverting the Empire,” a book I keep hearing really great things about, and sounds like it’s right up my ally!

Anyways, Rob, the leader asked as our icebreaker,

What presuppositions do you approach the Biblical text with?

What a great question to begin a yearlong Bible study with, and an even better question for the many of us who have grown up in the church and have found ourselves avoiding the text.

I’ve been reading the bible since I was around 15, and studying it within an  academic setting since I was 18. Having both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in bible and theology has been an incredible experience for me.  Learning the art of reading and interpreting Scripture as a disciple and apprentice is something I’ve taken very seriously.  But this form of study has also had some drawbacks, and this is where at least one of my presuppositions lay.

This past Thursday I was reminded that for quite awhile I’ve been avoiding the fullness of the biblical text.  In these years I’ve approaching the text primarily as something to be studied, exegeted, dissected and read as something dangerous and hard to understand (I mean dangerous in the sense of what it does in the hands of the poor interpretations and readings).  But from all this study, if I am honest with myself, I’ve grown weary of the Scriptures and find it harder and harder to read them at all, let alone in a spiritually reflective manner.

This summer I told some friends that I wanted to return to the reading of Scripture as a spiritual practice. I need to re-learn how to read it as a text that isn’t just for academic study, but one that is alive with God’s Spirit and story. I haven’t done well in this initial attempt to revive my spiritual reading. So I’ve taken a second step towards this practice and joining a community committed to not avoiding the text, but rather putting ourselves in its ways. I’ve also joined with our church in reading through Exodus, the text being preached through till Christmas. The Scriptures are the texts of life for the Christian community, yet often we as individuals find it difficult to approach them. I have been reminded that reading them within community is how they are meant to be read and experienced. This is how I’ve struggled and am trying to find my way again.

So then I ask you:

What presuppositions do you approach the Biblical text with?