There is a lot to discuss and understand in this chapter, so let's work on it for the next two Sundays, Oct. 11 and Oct. 17.
The quote from Charles Spurgeon about defending the Bible by letting it loose would make more sense to me if we were talking about God. People critical of Christianity often hold up scriptures that are not representative of what we believe. An example would be last week's Epistle reading from 1 Timothy about women in the church. Other "difficulties" with the Bible that we have discussed before include archaic language and unfamiliar social structures. In order for the Bible to defend itself, we have to let the whole thing loose and offer some resources for understanding it.
Let's talk about what resources you use in your own Bible study. The Internet offers many that were not available a decade ago.
According to polling data from the Barna Research Group, most homes do have at least one Bible. How can we encourage people — including one another! — to read them?
We say, and I think we believe, that the Bible is the Word of God, or sometimes that it contains the Word of God. How do we, as Reformed Christians, understand that? (I like what Lindvall said: "The written witness to the revelatory things that God has done.")
The newest books of the Bible are nearly 1900 years old. How do we receive the Word now?
In what ways do we consider the Bible to be authoritative — for the church, and for us as individuals?
What do you think of the work of the Jesus seminar?
Do you think that people who use the Bible as a rulebook are missing out on some of its value? Are they abusing its content?
Lindvall says we bring three things to our reading of the Bible: identity, recognition and imagination. Let's talk about how those interact in our understanding.
A good example of the first might be our reading of the story of the Prodigal. Do we identify with the father, the prodigal son or the "good" son? How does that change as our circumstances change? Can we carry our previous understanding forward?
Recognition may be growing less available to us as our lives grow ever more different from the lives of Biblical characters, but we still have times when we can connect very clearly a Biblical story with an occurrence in our own lives. Are you willing to describe some of those for our group?
Imagination in scripture reading is a harder concept for some of us to grasp, yet it is the point at which we stop understanding the Bible as being about what has already happened in our lives and start seeing that it is about what could and will be. How,
though, do we open ourselves to the possibility that God can act in us through the scriptures?
Lindvall asks, "How does Scripture become truth we can trust?" How does it become revelation? Life-changing truth? In other words, how can we really know?