Monday, October 22, 2012

Respecting Scripture

What does it mean to respect scripture?  Is it somehow disrespecting scripture to try to live into its precepts?  By honestly asking questions of the text is it being dishonored?  What might we be missing if we never do this?

To start, there seems to be several veins of criticism surrounding this work, most of which appears to come from people who have not even read the book.

The biggest controversy has been called Vagina-gate by Rachel Held Evans herself.  This centers around the idea that the word vagina is used in the book and as a result of this, the largest Christian bookstore chain in the country has refused to sell it.  This controversy has taken on a life of its own and has the potential to overtake the actual book itself.  I have nothing here to say except, GET OVER IT!  This is so not the point.

The other vein of criticism seems to be that by undertaking this project, Rachel Held Evans is somehow "disrespecting" or making a mockery of scripture.  There is where I really have something to say.

There seems to be a sort of paranoia about questioning or even critically engaging scripture or the religious practice informed by it.  It is my theory that some people (by no means confined to fundamental or evangelical traditions) view the Bible as a sort of house of cards in which each layer is dependent on the others to stay upright.  If one layer is too closely examined or touched or even if you breathe on it, the whole house of cards might collapse.  The thinking goes that if order to preserve the integrity of the Bible, it must never, ever be questioned.  The really funny thing is that we (and this is the royal "we") seem to think that we actually have the power to "destroy" scripture.  That is fairly arrogant and downright wrong.  The Bible is the living, revealed Word of God and nothing that WE do can change that.

I have been tracking several news stories in which Rachel is criticized for making a mockery of the biblical precepts for the role of women.  I could not disagree more vehemently.  I think the most honest engagement with the Bible is admitting what parts make us uncomfortable or don't make sense, then sit with them.  It means we are thinking about them and living with them and engaging in conversation with them.  Sometimes that means sitting on a roof or sleeping in a tent or sewing your own clothes like Rachel Held Evans.  More often it means engaging in real honest conversation, listening to the preaching of the story of Christ on the cross as if your life depends on it (because it DOES) and not just blithely swallowing whatever you read or hear.

Rachel Held Evans says it really well, "I keep loving, studying, and struggling with the Bible.  Because no matter how hard I fight it, it will always call me back."  (294)

In the Lutheran doctrine of Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone), Martin Luther says that the approach to studying scripture should be three-fold:

a. Oratio: prayer and reflection that puts you under the scripture (most of the time, we never make it past this point)

b. Meditatio: the intense anatomy of the text and examining the text's role in the story of Christ.

c. Tentatio: the opening up of your soul to scripture, and this can involve suffering.  The point at which the scripture truly works you and you can finally begin to preach it.

So, keep loving, engaging, and yes, even fighting with the Bible.  Let the text work you. 

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