In a fallen world, our interaction with God’s Word mainly takes the form of fractured Bible engagement. No one can completely embrace and engage with the full spectrum of God’s Word. The carnal human inclination, deliberately and instinctively, is to subvert God’s Story to shrivelled segmented versions that fit our theological and socio-political beliefs. As such, our interpretations of God’s Story end up, in greater or lesser degrees, distorting His message and undermining His mission.
Denominationalism exasperates the problem. Churches select and teach the Bible stories and verses that advance their agenda. Both inside and outside the Bible, churches locate themselves in exclusive storylines. They choose the narratives that dovetail with their theological biases and socio-political agendas and then connect the pieces to create dogma that defines and directs their preferred outcomes.
Fractured Bible engagement leads to fractured relationships. There are 2 billion Christians in the world, yet we’re not united. There are a staggering 45,000 denominations, according to the Center for the Study of Global Christianity. Sadly, and despite Jesus’ prayer for unity (John 17:20-23), we must own the fact that the history of Christianity is one of separation, not convergence.
Sin is another part of the problem. Pride, coupled with a desire for power and control, tragically corrupts Bible engagement and splinters us into disparate groups. Discord or division is only a step away when we read the Bible looking for texts to support our views and advance our ambitions. No wonder Jesus says, “Be careful … and be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees” Matthew 16:6 (NIV). When we select and prioritize some storylines while ignoring others, we distort the truth, limit our view of God, and handicap faith formation.
Fractured Bible engagement also leads to philosophical differences concerning the contextualization of God’s Story. These differences stimulate a variety of ministry strategies, tactics, and methodologies. While these differences enrich the practice of our faith, they also cause collisions that leave the Christian landscape littered with wrecks.
God can make the broken whole. Recognizing these realities behooves us to do everything possible to counter fractured Bible engagement. To personally embrace more holistic connections with God’s Word, we should ask the Lord for wisdom, nurture humility, strive to be Spirit-led, extend grace to one another, listen to hear, and press into Jesus. To expand community engagement with the Bible, we must cultivate dialogue, ask more profound critical questions, and in as much as God enables us, remove the barriers that prevent us from fully exploring the whole counsel of God.
© Scripture Union Canada 2022