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Bible Engagement Blog


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Opposition to Bible Engagement

Many Canadians reject the Bible because they distrust it. The reason why many Canadians distrust the Bible is because they do not believe in metanarratives*. Distrust in metanarratives has arguably done more to alienate people from the Bible than any other aspect associated with culture.

In an online survey inviting feedback on why people think the Bible is not relevant, some of the remarks were:  “The Bible is one gigantic anachronism”, “It’s a book – nothing more!”, “It cannot be accepted as a reliable document”, “It reflects a worldview out of date with scientific advances”, and “There is more than one holy book, more than one religion.” [Source: June/July 2009 online survey conducted by SGM Canada with 66 Canadian humanists, atheists and agnostics]

Coupled with the distrust that many Canadians have for the Bible is the popular notion that there are no absolutes and no objective or exclusive truth. There is also the view that reality is unknowable, language does not convey reality, and everything is therefore open to the interpretation and perspective of the individual. As a direct and indirect result of these ideas many Canadians have typically adopted pluralism and multiculturalism. The outcome of adopting pluralism and multiculturalism has been the elevation of tolerance as a prime social norm.

Distrust in metanarratives places popular culture in direct conflict with Christian faith. The clash is fiercest over the Christian belief that the Bible is truth (the belief that the Bible is truth because it agrees with God, who is absolute, and describes who He is – the Truth). Based on the conviction that the Bible is truth, Christians believe that the Bible is authoritative. This explains in part why, when Christians try to gain an audience for Bible engagement, they are labeled as intolerant, ignorant or arrogant.

How is the church responding to people who are alienated or in conflict with the Bible? Some elements of the church (Conservative Catholics, Conservative Evangelicals and Fundamentalists) adopt a defensive attitude (isolate/insulate themselves) or go on the offensive by working hard to make the Bible available and accessible (mostly using approaches developed more than 50 years ago). Making the Bible available has not helped stem the decline in Bible engagement. Other elements of the church (Liberal Protestants and Liberal Catholics) are generally not concerned. They have little interest in functioning as conduits for Bible engagement and do next to nothing to promote the Bible or invite interaction with it. In practice they accommodate popular culture by favouring a broad humanism and acquiescing to the deconstruction of the Bible.

So is there any hope for Bible engagement? Yes! There are elements of the church (mainly Evangelicals) attempting to creatively re-imagine and critically re-form their faith and practice around what Marcus Borg describes as a “transformation-centered paradigm”.  Within this paradigm Christians are re-conceiving, articulating and embodying the Story in contextually meaningful ways. This includes efforts to restore the message of the Bible (e.g. SU Canada’s  theStory™), invitations to read the Bible as a narrative of faith (e.g. SU Canada’s free e-book – Taste and See: An Invitation to Read the Bible), re-imagining language and relationships (e.g. SGM Canada encourages the development of relationships and companionship as the primary catalyst for Bible engagement), and inviting people to participate and enter into conversations/dialogue with the narrative of the Story in communal and inclusive forums. Added to this is the understanding that our invitations to engage with the Bible will be fruitless if we attempt anything without grace, vulnerability and humility.

*Metanarratives are defined as narratives about narratives that give a totalizing, comprehensive account to various historical events, experiences, and social, cultural phenomena based upon the appeal to universal truth and values.

© Scripture Union Canada 2013


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Story

Story is integral to Bible engagement. Story, when used with a capitalized “S” delineates God’s Story as distinct from other stories. Story is the metanarrative, the immense Story of the Creator himself – about the One of whom the Scriptures speak and who entered our world as the Saviour, Jesus Christ, to redeem us from sin and death.

Story, when used as a term, is a summation of the narrative, saga, and drama of the Bible. It is more than an arrangement of facts, ideas, propositions, or a compilation of spiritual laws. Story describes God’s narrative – an account that is unified, immediate, multidimensional, relational, non-manipulative, unique and central to knowing truth and the One who is Truth. It is a spacious realm that we are invited to enter with imagination and faith, and once we have entered, to see ourselves as participants. Story invites us to actively engage it and get caught up in the saga by receiving it and reenacting it.

The meeting of our stories with God’s Story are not simple affairs. Encounters between people and God are complicated and convoluted. This is due, not to God, but to us. We have a tendency to confuse, digress and destroy. The problem is we are inclined to indwell an alternative story to the story God invites us to participate in. In our ignorance improvised scenarios are created, distorted roles developed, and conflicting dramas enacted.

True Bible engagement begins when we respond to the Great Storyteller (God) as He invites us to take the role intended for us. The roles are many and varied, including: listening, speaking, reading, studying, reciting, memorizing, interpreting, singing, preaching, receiving, and acting – both individually and communally. All our spiritual senses need to be engaged with the Story. We need to “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8); open our eyes to it (cf. Psalm 119:18, 82); and open our ears to it – “He who has ears to hear, let him hear” (Mark 4:9).

The point is this: When the Bible is reduced to a handbook for church dogma, a moral rule book, a depository of propositional truth, or a collection of wise sayings to guide people through life; it is easy for people to take it or leave it. But when the Bible is shared, in the power of the Spirit, as the Story which runs deeper than the world’s stories, it invites people to enter into a different world and see themselves in a different light, that is, to share God’s view of the world.

© Scripture Union Canada 2012