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Bible Engagement Blog

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Saving the Bible From Ourselves

In the recently published, Saving the Bible from Ourselves, the author, Glenn R. Paauw, observes how the Bible has “fallen” and needs to be “saved”. To this end he constructs a model for discovering (or rediscovering) Bible engagement in the context of the Christian community. In so doing, he argues for a new form of Bible reading – one that majors on “big readings” as opposed to “small” or “fragmented readings”.

At its core, the book asks two key questions: “What is the Bible?” and, “What are we supposed to do with it?” In the course of answering these questions Paauw proposes an intervention. The intervention is the recovery/reconstruction of seven new understandings to renewed engagement with the Bible.

It’s a book well worth reading. Here are some introductory primers that will hopefully entice your interest …

We might be swimming in millions of Bibles, but we are not a Scripture-soaked society.

You may have heard that the Bible is the bestselling book of all time. And that’s true … But the researchers have been telling us for some time that the knowledge base isn’t there. Regardless of the number of times we’ve rolled the Bible presses, the words on the page are not common currency.

We are also assured that … the Bible will brighten our day, encourage us and strengthen us, if only we will faithfully open it … And yet. We know there is more to this story than the official line … This is the story of frustration, boredom and lack of connection. This is the story of failed expectations … that it doesn’t work.

We commit to a daily “quiet time,” but after a while we give up. We read our little spiritual morsel and discover it doesn’t nourish us all that much, and certainly not enough to carry us through the day. Actually, we kind of forget it pretty quickly.

For far too many folks there is a hoped-for-but-as-yet-undiscovered spiritual meal in the Bible. After too long a wait they begin to doubt there is any real food there at all.

One of the core reasons for our Bible engagement breakdown is that so many would-be Bible readers have been sold the mistaken notion that the Bible is a look-it-up-and-find-the-answer handy guide to life.

Superficial use of the Scriptures is actually destructive because those who practice it operate under the illusion that they are engaging the Bible when they are not.

I believe the journey to the Bible’s redemption – just like our own – lies in incarnational recovery. Just as we require a holistic salvation that includes our bodies, so the Bible needs a restoration that includes its physical form.

The Bible needs to be saved because of what it has not become. It has not become a collection of books we know, the narrative we stew in, the words that form us.

The Bible needs saving, not because of any defect in itself, but because we’ve buried it, boxed it in, wallpapered over it, neutered it, distorted it, isolated it, individualized it, minimized it, misread it, lied about it, debased it and oversold it.

The Bible needs a slower, smarter, deeper engagement … eating good meals rather than speed snacking on what Philip Yancey calls Scripture McNuggets.

The Bible is achieving its purpose – when we realize that this ancient tribal tale has somehow become our center.

The beginning of good Bible engagement is a bit of reflection on what it means to be a virtuous reader in general …

© Scripture Union Canada 2016

2 Corinthians 4:5

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Here’s a shout-out for Find-A-Bible.

What is Find-A-Bible (FAB)? According to the FAB website it “is a web directory providing links to the Bibles and biblical resources in the 6000+ languages of the world. The FAB directory is primarily made of content created by members of the Forum of Bible Agencies International (FOBAI) and is intended to help people discover and obtain Scriptures and biblical resources in the language and media of their choice for discipleship, evangelism, and church planting. The associated databases and delivery tools were created and are maintained by the Digital Bible Society (DBS). Find-A-Bible is made up of links to print Bibles, print-on-demand Bibles, digital Bibles, audio Bibles, visual Bibles and Bible resources – in multiple formats.”

FAB is a collaborative endeavour where the world’s major Bible agencies partner to provide a convenient digital hub where people can quickly and readily find biblical resources and Bibles in every language. FAB also serves as a point of reference for Bible translation organizations looking to discover what Bibles, or Bible portions, have or haven’t been published in a specific language.

FAB has been created because a core belief of FOBAI member agencies is that the Bible is essential for discipleship and advancing the kingdom of God among every tribe and tongue and people. If you are someone seeking God, a Christian, or a missionary/pastor/teacher looking for excellent biblical resources in your heart language or the heart language of the people you’re working/living with, then FAB should prove to be a helpful information bank for multi-lingual Bible resources.

One more thing: If you’re checking out FAB, take an extra few minutes to check out the FOBAI Scripture Engagement landing page. It’s jam packed with an extensive selection of research findings, resources, articles, links, and such, about Bible engagement. There’s information on Bible reading, Bible study, Bible storying, Bible preaching, Bible meditation and Bible memorization. There are resources about engaging children, youth, women, other religions, the deaf, and post-Christian societies with the Scriptures. There are also many papers, essays, blogs, books and journals that cover topics like Bible translation, literacy, orality, culture, contextualisation, the arts, media, the church, advocacy, tools and methods.

© Scripture Union Canada 2016

2 Corinthians 4:5

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Jesus Engagement

Bible engagement is about Jesus engagement. This may seem obvious, but there are many Bible-related things that aren’t ultimately about Jesus. In fact, whenever Bible-related programs, activities, projects, seminars, challenges, courses, or initiatives are exclusively about Bible reading, Bible study, Bible translation, and such, then they may be nothing more than Bible idolatry. Jesus said, “… you shall be witnesses to Me …” Acts 1:8 (NKJV).

It’s a matter of priorities, making the main thing the main thing. It’s not Bible reading and reflection that are important. They’re just the means to a desired end. And what is the desired end of Bible reading/reflection? Is it moralistic – reading the Bible as an example to imitate? Is it intellectual – reading the Bible as something to know? Is it therapeutic – reading the Bible to feel better about ourselves? Is it theological – reading the Bible to systematically develop religious beliefs? Or is it deistic – reading the Bible for truths about God? No, categorically no! The desired end of Bible reading must be to connect with, be transformed by, and live in obedience to the One of whom it speaks – Jesus Christ. “To this you were called … that you should follow in his steps” 1 Peter 2:21 (NIV).

If one loves the Word more than one loves the One who is the Word, we’ve missed the mark. Paul Tripp asks, “Could it be that you have a heart for the Word (a quest for theological expertise and biblical literacy) but not a heart for the God of the Word?”

By emphasizing Bible reading just for the sake of Bible reading, we perpetuate something short of God’s intent for His Word. That’s why we should promote/advocate more than Bible reading. We should want the kind of interaction with the Word that reveals God, exposes sin, and causes us to worship Him. And for that to happen, we need Jesus engagement.

So what is Jesus engagement? It’s a relational interaction with the One who is the Word such that His Spirit reveals, renews and revives us, in and through the Word, to love and live for Him in accordance with His Word.

Here’s the rub: Bible reading, in and of itself, doesn’t necessarily lead to us loving and living for Jesus. After all, the Pharisees and teachers of the law studied the Bible ardently, but they didn’t love Jesus. Their Bible reading only resulted in legalism and a love for their own traditions. Jesus called them out for this, saying: “These people honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me” Mark 7:6 (NIV) and “Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition …” Mark 7:13 (NIV). That is, their Bible reading perpetuated religious rituals, nothing more.

That’s not to say that reading/hearing the Bible isn’t a required spiritual discipline; it most definitely is. But it is to say that Bible reading has to go beyond reading about God to having a vital ongoing life-transforming relationship with Christ. As John Stott reminds us, “Only as we continue to appropriate by faith the riches of Christ which are disclosed to us in Scripture shall we grow into spiritual maturity, and become men and women of God who are thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

Jesus Engagement

So let’s make Bible engagement about Jesus engagement. Let’s “get beyond propositions and Bible verses to Christ. I do not mean ‘get around’ Bible verses, but ‘through’ Bible verses to Christ, to the person, the living person, to know Him, cherish Him, treasure Him, enjoy Him, trust Him, be at home with Him” John Piper, “God’s Glory Is the Goal of Biblical Counseling,” The Journal of Biblical Counseling, 20/2 (Winter 2002), 8–21.


© Scripture Union Canada 2016

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