“Our spiritual ancestors were identified as LASARE (Readers). the Bible was their primary document, was in their hands constantly and used faithfully…They spoke of themselves frequently as gathering around the Word as if to encircle it, like gathering around a campfire on a cold day or a dark night.
The “Readers” did not come to the Bible because they had been convinced by theological and dogmatic discussions of its authority…It’s authority was found In the new life in Christ they found there. They knew that speaking about food could not satisfy hunger and that speaking about thirst could not quench thirst. They trusted the Bible to be its own defense as well as their own, not by speaking about it, but by proclaiming its message in testimony and sermon, song and living.” (Eric Hawkinson, Images in Covenant Beginnings, Covenant Press, 1968).
“Our way into the Bible is to read, to understand, and to believe. It is possible to read but not understand. It is possible to understand and yet reject in unbelief. But to believe in the Bible is not the same as to believe in God. It is possible to believe the Bible instead of believing in God. The worst way to lose the Bible is to make it into an idol.
The Bible is God’s book, but it must in a special sense be the Christ book. the Bible’s meaning and unity is Christ, but the Holy Spirit needs to witness to Christ in our hearts. Hence to keep the Bible means at the deepest level that it becomes God’s Word about Christ made fruitful through the Holy Spirit.” David Nyvall (1863-1946)
These words speak to our unique and rich theological history of scripture’s authority, while at the same time giving way to the Living God who we find there inviting us to life. The truth of scripture is found ultimately in our experience of New life in Christ. We come to scripture for life, and we live to witness to the good news of God we find there. While the text is important, it is the message to which it points that brings life.
What strikes me as I reflect is how these “readers” gathered together to read for the sake of assessing others, or resolving all the tensions of their lives, but to be formed — to learn and grow as disciples of the crucified and resurrected Jesus. The crucial element of this was the relational aspect of their faith.
Last Sunday’s sermon wrestled with this idea of coming TO scripture and reading it together NOT to figure out who God is — but to reverse the order — experiencing the presence and goodness of God and reading scripture with an openness to learn more of this God of love. Here’s the quote from Luke Timothy Johnson that I read and pondered:
“The task of scripture is not to dictate how God should act: rather, God’s action, even these days, dictates how we understand scripture.” (Writings of the New Testament).
This gets at what I experienced as a child and through my life, among these Pietists whose hearts were strangely warmed, that “scripture rings true because of the grace of God in my life.” Scripture is no less authoritative, but locates its authority not in propositional truth but in the life of faith.
Just some rambling thoughts! I’d love to talk more with you about your thoughts. How about a walk, a coffee, or some lunch? Be in touch!