Making sense of it all

"I am the way and the truth and the life..." John 14.6


Cutting to the chase, how does one interpret a sacred text like the Bible? "In the Spirit" would be one answer. Because the written word points to the Living Word who is Christ, God Himself is our best guide to a true understanding. This is fine as far as it goes but it does not account for human fallibility. What happens when what you hear from God differs from what I hear? We cannot both be right, so who will judge between us?


Another approach is to get as close as we can to the various contexts in which the texts which constitute The Bible were conceived. This involves getting acquainted with the appropriate language, culture, history and outlook of the author/ authors in question. But what if they, being human, didn't hear God correctly themselves, or failed to express accurately what they heard? We've all done it, tried to express something to someone else in an essay or a letter and struggled to find the words.


A third way is to acknowledge that the text before us is more like a signpost than a manual. In other words, rather than being the final arbiter on the subject of God and how to live faithfully, it serves to point us in the right direction. This makes sense when we realise the difference between the word and The Word. The written word of God, which is how the Bible is sometimes referred to, proclaims Jesus, who is the Living Word, but does not encapsulate him. So calling the Bible "holy" is perhaps inappropriate because it is what/ whom the Bible proclaims that is holy.


It therefore follows that, rather than being a pool into which we immerse ourselves in the expectation of enjoying everything there is to know about God, the Bible is more like a spring-board, propelling us towards a greater, richer, more liberating awareness of the trajectory of the story of creation, rebellion, salvation and redemption. How we make sense of it is a work in progress, a shared project in which we are all engaged, in which we all have something to contribute because we are all pilgrims. And God is not the faraway host waiting to welcome us so much as our reliable guide, accompanying us on the journey so we can all enjoy reaching our destination together.

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