Questions to ask yourself (no wrong answers):

How often (or seldom) do you read the Bible?

When you do, do you find parts of it off-putting? If so, do you find that difficult to admit to yourself?

Do you have a favorite passage or verse? What makes it a favorite for you?

Some statements to chew on:

1. “We listen to the Bible, not as a magical answer book, but as a living Word awakening us to God’s movement among us today. We also listen to what the best of current biblical scholarship can tell us about the Bible” (from GraceUnlimited’s Core Values).

2. “Every God-breathed writing is also useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in justice.”—2 Timothy 3:16. (Note, when these words were written, Christians and Jews had not yet agreed on which writings were actually “God-breathed.” The earliest surviving list where all the books in today’s New Testament were even mentioned was written in the year 367!)

3. “All Scripture sets forth Christ … What does not teach Christ is not apostolic, not even if taught by Peter or Paul. On the other hand, what does preach Christ is apostolic, even if Judas, Annas, Pilate or Herod does it.”—Martin Luther, “Preface to James and Jude”

4. “We must … take great heede, lest in attributing to scripture more then it can have, the incredibillitie of that do cause even those thinges which indeed it hath most aboundantly to be lesse reverendly esteemed.”—Richard Hooker, Of the Lawes of Ecclesiasticall Politie, 2.8.7

Digging deeper:

Check out “What Does the Bible Say about Itself?” and “Reading the Bible from Wherever You Are.”

If you have an approach to the Bible that’s working for you right now, assume there must be something right about it. But it can still be enriched and developed by taking other approaches seriously.

What if it turns out that the Bible was written by lots of biased people who don’t always agree exactly on who God is or what God wants? (That’s actually most readers’ first impression if they read enough of it.) Is it OK to admit that? Would this mean that the Bible can’t also be “a living Word awakening us to God’s movement among us today”? Would it mean that 2 Timothy 3:16 was simply false?

Actually, it’s important to know that over the past 200 years countless Christians have become persuaded of this very thing, and they did not lose their faith but report they’ve deepened it. They still affirm that “every God-breathed writing is also useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in justice.” They still approach the Bible as “a living Word awakening us to God’s movement among us today.” This is apparently news not only to many Christians but to many of their secular critics.

GraceUnlimited, like the churches that sponsor us, likewise wagers that it’s OK if the Bible’s writers turned out to have the same failings we have. It’s still a living, useful Word (with a capital “W”). We can look past the writers’ failings to learn from how they wrestled with the same God who moves among us today—still nagging us to walk in love.

Have you ever experienced a moment when a passage from the Bible spoke to you in a new way? If so, what do you imagine was going on when that happened? If not, why not give it a try?

One assumption that Christians and Jews share is this: Recognizing God as God requires taking part in a story that’s still unfolding. It has a beginning, and it has an envisioned ending, and we’re helping to flesh out the way toward that ending, creatively. But to do that, we need to know how it began. The Bible provides that beginning.

For GraceUnlimited, the Bible is not the last word, but it’s an eye-opening first word, as long as we don’t expect it to do what no ancient writing should be expected to do.

Some Suggestions:

—Try following a daily lectionary:

—Check out resources that follow the readings for the church calendar, like this one, or this one by yours truly.

—Use the sort of study Bible that’s used in introductory college-level courses in nonsectarian schools (like Butler, IU, Purdue)—The New Oxford Annotated Bible, or The Harper Collins Study Bible, or The New Interpreter’s Study Bible. They represent what most recognized biblical scholars are saying. (Incidentally, you don’t have to be Christian or Jewish to be a recognized biblical scholar, but it turns out that most of these scholars do identify as practicing Christians and Jews, even though their conclusions may come across as shocking to a first-time reader.)

—There are some study Bibles and devotional Bibles with a controlling theological or cultural bias. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t read them. Just be aware, and be willing to compare what they say with a more recognized study Bible. (I doubt that any scholarship can totally bias-free, but I do think it’s possible for responsible scholars to keep their biases from controlling their work.)

—Be careful reading translations by individuals (including my translation of 2 Timothy 3:16!)—they almost always have a theological bias. That doesn’t make them worthless, but you should be aware of a probable bias.

—Fr. Charles Allen