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Eat This Book

Eugene Peterson, author of The Message (an idiomatic translation of the Bible in contemporary language) has, as would be expected, much to say about how we read the Bible. In Eat This Book: A Conversation in the Art of Spiritual Reading, he challenges us to read the Scriptures on God’s terms and to live them as we read them. Here are some extracts from Eat This Book that will hopefully entice you to read the Bible like dogs gnawing on a bone:

The challenge – never negligible – regarding the Christian Scriptures is getting them read, but read on their own terms, as God’s revelation.

What is neglected is reading the Scriptures formatively, reading in order to live.

In order to read the Scriptures adequately and accurately, it is necessary at the same time to live them … not to live them in consequence of reading them, but to live them as we read them.

The Bible reveals the self-revealing God and along with that the way the world is, the way life is, the way we are.

The Bible is basically and overall a narrative – an immense, sprawling, capacious narrative.

The biblical story invites us in as participants in something larger than our sin-defined needs, into something truer than our culture-stunted ambitions.

When we submit our lives to what we read in Scripture, we find that we are not being led to see God in our stories but our stories in God’s.

Scripture is the revelation of a world that is vast, far larger than the sin-stunted, self-constricted world that we construct for ourselves out of a garage-sale assemblage of texts.

Scripture draws us out of ourselves, out of our fiercely guarded individualities, into the world of responsibility and community and salvation – God’s sovereignty.

It takes the whole Bible to read any part of the Bible.

One of the most urgent tasks facing the Christian community today is to counter self-sovereignty by reasserting what it means to live these Holy Scriptures from the inside out, instead of using them for our sincere and devout but still self-sovereign purposes.

We are fond of saying that the Bible has all the answers … But the Bible also has all the questions, many of them that we would just as soon were never asked of us, and some of which we will spend the rest of our lives doing our best to dodge.

Our imaginations have to be revamped to take in this large, immense world of God’s revelation in contrast to the small, cramped, world of human “figuring out.”

A simple act of obedience will open up our lives to the text far more quickly than any number of Bible studies and dictionaries and concordances.

The biblical story pulls the holy community – not just you, not just me – into the story in a participating way.

If we are to get the full force of the word, God’s word, we need to recover its atmosphere of spokenness.

The primary organ for receiving God’s revelation is not the eye that sees but the ear that hears – which means that all of our reading of Scripture must develop into a hearing of the word of God.

The Scriptures are our listening post for learning the language of the soul, the ways God speaks to us; they also provide the vocabulary and grammar that are appropriate for us as we in turn speak to God.

Contemplation simply must be reclaimed as essential in all reading and living of Scripture. It is not an option; it is necessary.

The words of Scripture are not primarily words, however impressive, that label or define or prove, but words that mean, that reveal, that shape the soul, that generate saved lives, that form believing and obedient lives.

© Scripture Union Canada 2016

2 Corinthians 4:5


Bono and Eugene Peterson: The Psalms


In the Bible engagement world there are some fascinating collaborations and the recent one between Bono and Eugene Peterson is certainly worthy of mention.

It started many years ago when Bono, the lead singer of U2, started quoting from The Message at some of his performances. Notably, during the Elevation tour before “Where the Streets Have No Name”, Bono would recite these lines from Psalm 116, What can I give back to God for the blessings he’s poured out on me? I’ll lift high the cup of salvation – A toast to God! I’ll pray in the name of God; I’ll complete what I promised God I’d do, And I’ll do it together with his people.

Peterson, Professor Emeritus at Regent College in Vancouver, and a Presbyterian church minister for 35 years, retired in 2006. In 2010, during U2’s 360 tour, Bono and Peterson finally got to meet one another. The friendship that transpired has become the focus of a new documentary – a conversation at the Peterson’s home in Montana – about how the Psalms capture their imaginations and fuels their camaraderie.

It will no doubt be a compelling film. Bono is a long-time fan of Peterson. In December of 2001 he told Rolling Stone Magazine that his favourite reading materials included “… a translation of Scriptures – the New Testament and the Books of Wisdom – that this guy Eugene Peterson has undertaken. It has been a great strength to me.” Then in 2002 he sent a message to Peterson in which he said, “Hi Mr. Peterson, Eugene. My name is Bono. I’m a singer with the group U2. I wanted to sort of video message you my thanks, and our thanks in the band, for this remarkable work you’ve done translating the Scriptures. Really, really a remarkable work … As a songwriter, it was very clear to me that you were a poet as well as a scholar. You brought the musicality to God’s Word that I’m sure was there, was always there in intention.”

Peterson, in turn, when asked about his reaction to Bono quoting from The Message in front of 20,000 fans said, “My reaction? Pleased, very pleased. Bono is singing to the very people I did this work for. I feel that we are allies in this. He is helping get me and The Message into the company of the very people Jesus spent much of his time with” (Source: Angela Pancella, U2 Connections)

Here’s the YouTube teaser of the documentary (cf. below). It premiers on April 26, 2016. While the teaser gives no clues about the documentary, it’s probably enough for us to simply see Bono and Peterson together. After all, Bono has underscored the passion of the Psalms in his music and Peterson has taught us about praying with the Psalms.


[Since this post was published, the film has been released. Click here to see the film]

© Scripture Union Canada 2016

2 Corinthians 4:5

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