Thursday, January 06, 2011

On the impotence of reading the Bible

It's Epiphany. You can take down your Advent/Christmas decorations now.

And yes, the title says "impotence" not "importance". Let me explain.

In a recent post titled The impotence of the liturgical year Halden warns against getting too excited about the Christian calendar and what it might magically achieve if we aligned the temporal spaces of our lives with the rhythm of celebration, commemoration and anticipation traditionally marked through the church seasons and holy days. This critique may well be important for those coming from a tradition in which it is highly valued. But coming from a background where the only non-ordinary times were Easter and Christmas, a similar critique that might be more relevant in the circles with which I'm more familiar can be made of scriptural exposition as a magical activity that will guarantee discipleship and faithfulness amongst the flock. Simply reading and explaining the text does not by itself ensure well-formed Christian lives any more than using the right words or music can ensure that God is truly worshipped when we gather together. God indeed speaks through the pages of holy scripture, but the Spirit blows where he wills. God cannot be put in a box, or a book. Or a tomb - at least for long.

Now I am not against careful and passionate scriptural exposition, nor creative and faithful observance of a liturgical calendar, nor beautiful music and well-crafted language, but these are all fingers pointing at the moon. They are signs and are only of use insofar as they guide us to our destination: the living God revealed in Christ.

You don't eat the menu.

Enjoy the feast.


besideourselves said...

A fundamentalist church 'rescued' me from my gleeful psuedo-Christian paganism only to replace it with a more pernicious bibliolatry.

As the post you linked to put so very cogently;

"For the excellence of what is offered - when considered separately to the act of offering itself - is a spiritual snare. It is to offer out of an imagined bounty, not to give the widow's mite."

Great stuff, thanks again.

byron smith said...

Jason responds to the same piece through the concept of training.