In this small blue-green dot of a world we live on, there are many wonderful things. Some of these things, however, are not universally enjoyed. Take black coffee as an example, it will give certain people a smile and a dissatisfied scrunchy face to others. This subjective characteristic makes black coffee drinking an exclusive thing, much like a club or group. Some wonderful things are like this, subjective, exclusive, not for everyone. While others are (aside from an extreme minority) considered wonderful by all. Like fresh air, clean water, the smell of flowers, bacon, and puppies.
(Keep the paragraph above, in your back pocket for later). In this post, I want to talk about my experience with the Bible, as well as some introductory facts about it, and a perspective which is helpful to have when reading it. So, let’s dive into the perspective first.
I don’t remember who I got this from, but when I heard it, it changed the way I read the Bible, so here it is, “The Bible is nothing less than a perfect description of our world”. Now I don’t have the ability in this blog to completely unpack that statement (it would probably take a book). But, one of the things I got out of it was that the Bible is not like man-made books. Books portray a picture of our reality, as it appears, after being filtered through a human, making the picture produced by them more or less artificial. The Bible portrays a picture of our world that comes from the one who created it, making this picture, as natural as the world we live in.
The more I study the Bible and the world, the more I see the fingerprints of our creator on both.
For instance, let’s compare, the wonderful things in our world example, to the Bible. Just like our world was created to be subjectively and collectively enjoyed. The Bible was written to be subjectively enjoyable, as well as, collectively enjoyed.
One of the things which makes the Bible subjectively enjoyable is, the fact, that it’s not a book. It’s a collection of books. This library contains literature ranging from, History, to Poetry, to Philosophy, there is Theology, stories, and sayings, written in both eastern and western ways of thinking. This diversity of literature guarantees that there is something for everyone. One of the things about the Bible, which is collectively wonderful is that the messages can be grasped by all. You don’t have to be an intellectual or from a specific place. This was achieved because, the Bible was written by people, who spoke different languages, were from different cultures, and lived in vastly different times. So, the thoughts, perspectives, and teachings, in the different books, have an appearance of originality (Deuteronomy looks nothing like Matthew). However, every book at its core echoes the ones before it, creating a cohesive message, which is subtle, yet in your face at the same time.
Often when people begin reading the Bible they begin with Geneses and read straight through. Now there is value in doing this. However, I never have been able to do it and I would encourage anyone who is interested in reading or in getting back into it, to start with the books that contain the kind of literature that speaks to you. Whether that’s, poetry, stories, narratives, history, or proverbs, start with something that you can grasp or like. After that, move to a book which is out of your comfort zone. The Bible is designed to give the reader a learning experience kin to growing up. You start with what you’re comfortable with. But, once your skills and knowledge have been sharpened, you move on to another book.
To me, one of the most fascinating things that I have learned about the Bible, from reading/studying it. Is that it is as mysterious and complex as it is simple. Jerome describes it like this,
“The Scriptures are shallow enough for a babe to come and drink without fear of drowning and deep enough for a theologians to swim in without ever touching the bottom”.
I love that explanation, because, it’s so accurate to the experience of reading it, simple yet paradoxical. The Bible makes you feel like the world is understandable, but then reminds you that you really don’t understand much at all, just like life.
Studying Bible is like exploring our world, it’s dangerous, confusing, beautiful, surprising, comforting, not easy, and you get out of it what you put into it.
C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity provides a cool thought about this.
“Reality, in fact, is usually something you could not have guessed. That is one of the reasons I believe Christianity. It is a religion you could not have guessed. If it offered us just the kind of universe we had always expected, I should feel we were making it up. But, in fact, it is not the sort of thing anyone would have made up. It has just that queer twist about it that real things have. So let us leave behind all these boys’ philosophies–these over simple answers. The problem is not simple and the answer is not going to be simple either.”
I think one of the big reasons people have trouble reading the Bible or getting things out of it, is because they treat it like a man-made thing. The Bible is not a fairy tale, a textbook, a liturgy, or painting/novel authored by humans. It’s our creator describing to us what he has done and who he is. Just like the world he made if you go into the Bible with, a flippant attitude, half-heartedness, dismissive skepticism, or with the mind-numbing disinterest that comes from doing a job or chore, you will miss what has fascinated people for millennium.
Thanks for reading, the next few posts will be focused on the Bible. Like always follow above and like below.