The Jesus Storybook Bible is the only children’s book I know of that starts by addressing this question, “What is the Bible?” This is such an important question that we often take for granted. How we approach the Bible has a profound impact on what we receive from the Bible. There is much to consider related to this that is beyond the scope of this blog, but I do want to discuss a few significant big picture ideas related to the issue.
First, the focus in lesson one of the Jesus Storybook Bible is who the Bible is about. Sometimes we get caught up on the human characters involved in the story as we try to relate to them. Yes, we all have our favorite characters in scripture to whom we relate. Often it’s the ones who struggle with the same vices or the one who did overcome the obstacle we are trying to overcome. We can learn a great deal from these characters, but it is important to realize that the Bible is not about Noah, Abraham or Joseph. The Bible is about God. It is His story. He is THE HERO.
When I started my studies at Lipscomb University, I realized how deficient I was on this front. I really had not thought much about God. The take-homes from all the sermons and Bible classes I had participated in were focused on me, not him. My religion was more a set of morals than a relationship with the living God. I found it difficult to say anything “theological”, that is, to say something about God. One of my professors Phillip Camp made a comment related to the scriptures that I will never forget and I try to reflect in my teaching and preaching. “Some scriptures inspire us to go and do, but many others call us to come and see.” Because in my fellowship we tend to focus on the former. It has become a personal mission of mine to bring attention to the latter.
Another important matter to deal with as we discuss how to approach scripture is the variety of genres found in the Bible. All scripture is equally inspired, but because different genres are written to express ideas through different means we must approach each text “on its own terms.” If you would like to research this more for yourself, I would highly recommend How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth by Gordan Fee and Douglas Stewart. They explore each genre in detail. This is a very valuable study that is worthy of your time if you want to become a more proficient student of the Bible.
The last thought I would like to share with regard to our approach to the Bible is our own personal lens. We would all like to believe that we come to the scriptures from an objective perspective. I am part of a fellowship that once (and in some cases still does) believed that if we all approached the scriptures honestly we would come to the same conclusions. Then after about a generation this movement split because honest people understood the scriptures differently.
We all approach the Bible with a personal bias. We also approach scripture with societal biases of our nation, socio-economic status, and denominational/congregational upbringing. Moreover, we must recognize that though the Bible is timeless, it was written from within a context different than our own. (Actually, multiple contexts when you consider that it was written over a period of more than a millennia.) I found Scott McKnight’s book The Blue Parakeet very insightful on this front.
Also, it is worth noting that a major shift in “how people think” is happening in the world today. Sociologists refer to this as the transition from “modern” to “post-modern”. The modern way of thinking is about 500 years old and is giving way in our generation to the quite un-creatively named “post-modern.” This is a whole other matter that needs to be explored, but is beyond our scope. I will just say this, due to the environment in which your child is growing up, he or she will have post-modern thought patterns. This is not something to be feared, but embraced. I believe post-moderns will actually identify more with the pre-modern context in which the Bible was written. As one born in the 1970’s I realize that my way of thinking is a blend. However, my brother born in the late 1980’s is almost entirely a post-modern thinker. These truths speak to the lens with which we approach scripture, but as a minister I know it must inform the way I teach younger generations. More on that another day.
Just remember, the Bible is first and foremost about God. I look forward to learning more about the Divine One as we read together in the weeks ahead.