J Walking

Hey folks. Patton Dodd here, filling in for DK for the day.

Next week I’m traveling to Boston to speak, along with Lauren Winner, at a little event at Boston University entitled “Writing the Spirit.” (If you’re in the area, come to the fancy digs in BU’s School of Management on Thursday, April 19 at 5:30.) We’re both talking about the intersection between the way we read scripture and the way we write spiritual autobiography.

So, I’ve been asking myself (and it’s a question I’d like to put to you below): How should I read the Bible? Really, I’ve been asking that question for more than a decade, and I imagine I’ll ask it all of my life. A lot of my current reading–John Polkinghorne, NT Wright, Eugene Peterson, Karl Barth–is an attempt to address that question, as is my dissertation project, which is focused on how biblical literalism pops up in American fiction.

I used to read the Bible as a fundamentalist would. I didn’t think of myself as a fundamentalist, and I hardly ever thought about the political and cultural issues that most people believe are obsessessions for fundamentalists. But I believed the Bible was innerrant, that it was flawless, and that understanding it was as easy as sitting down, opening it up, and letting the words fill my mind.

Later, when I became confused about my faith, I was afraid the whole book was bunk–that it was a total human construction, and if it had had some positive influence on culture, it was all framed by patriarchy, misogyny, anti-science, racism, and so on.

Those two paragraphs cover 10 very bewildering years of my life.

I think about the Bible very differently now, and I’ll be trying to make sense of that “differently” next Thursday. I’d like to think that my reading of the Bible is today more faithful and fair to the text, and even more pious, than it ever has been. But I also know that some of my readings would be anathema to my Christian friends, and others would be anathema to my non-Christian friends. So it goes.

How about you, David? Or you, Reader? How do you read the Bible? What do you think is the message of the creation account in Genesis? What about the scene in Genesis 3–did that happen in history? How do you read disturbing passages like Psalm 137? What about the death of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts?

What about your habits? Do you read it daily? Weekly? How? Do you pick and choose books randomly?

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