I’m a Christian pastor, so it makes sense that I think quite a bit about what the Bible says. But I also spend quite a lot of time thinking about how I/we read the biblical texts. That is, I’m very interested in hermeneutics.
I’ve been convinced for a long time now that most of the significant arguments (ostensibly) about what the Bible says are actually more about how the Bible is being read. It may be surprising to some, but there is not just one ‘correct’ way to read these sacred texts. I’m convinced that there are ‘better’ and ‘worse’ reading strategies, but I think it’s naive to suggest that there is only one ‘right’ approach.
I may have lost some readers already at this point but, if you’re willing to read on, hopefully I can make some sense of these initial statements (both in this post and those that follow).
I want to take a couple of posts to tease out some ideas on these issues, and would like to start in this post by addressing a phenomenon that I think is quite common — and quite mistaken — when it comes to reading the New Testament in particular.
On Holy Saturday of this year (April 19, 2014), more than 100 people came together for a peaceful, public, Christian prayer vigil for asylum seekers, outside (Minister for Immigration and Border Protection) Scott Morrison’s office in Cronulla Mall.
The event—organised by a group called ‘Love Makes a Way‘—included elements of lament, confession, a statement of faith, readings from the scriptures, and prayer. Below is the text of the short sermon I delivered as part of the proceedings, reflecting on what it means to stand in solidarity with asylum seekers with a ‘Holy Saturday faith’.
I’ve set myself the goal for 2014 of centering my thinking specifically around three spheres of thought, and the possible overlaps between them.
These spheres of thought are missional thinking and practice, the spirituality and practice of nonviolence, and the principles of permaculture. Things always look more interesting in Venn diagrams, so I’ve included one here:
Last Sunday I had the incredible privilege of attending a combined church service in a small village in rural South Africa.
It was an amazing experience!
The whole service was very special, and the time we spent after the service listening to and praying with the local church leaders over lunch was beautiful, but the thing that stood out most significantly to me was the singing. Oh the singing!
Sometimes I find it extremely difficult to claim for myself the name ‘Christian’. Sometimes, I must admit, I find it very nearly impossible.
Now, it’s not because I think it’s ‘tough’ being a Christian in Australia. It’s not because I think there’s any kind of persecution that Christians in Australia must endure. (There are Christians in a number of countries around the world who do face persecution for their faith, but Australia is no such place.)
It’s something else entirely. In fact, it’s two things.
I’ve recently finished reading Richard J. Foster’s now-classic Celebration of Discipline. It’s a well-written, easy-to-read book which draws deeply on centuries of insight from the true masters of the spiritual disciplines, but I must admit to not being greatly excited about reading it at the outset. I read a good number of these sorts of books as part of my theological degree (and subsequently), and I wasn’t convinced there’d be much in it for me except for the reminder that I don’t engage in most of these disciplines nearly as well as I should. Perhaps that was reason enough to read the book in the first place, but these days I generally try to avoid placing myself in situations where I know feelings of guilt are the inevitable consequence…
For the most part, the book conformed to my expectations. There is, perhaps, a lesson in this of expectations overruling the possibility of truly engaging with a text, but that’s for another time. There was, however, one thing that did grab my attention.
This one point is ‘The Discipline of Simplicity’ (chapter 6 in the book, if anyone’s interested).