The official start of summer is June 21, but my summer reading plan is in full swing. And boy am I starting it with a bang! The book I’m be reading and will be sharing is a great way to set the tone for the rest of my summer reading. Since I almost always read and study American authors/bible scholars (actually, I can’t remember EVER reading a book or doing a bible study by anyone other than a person that writes from a US-centered background), I love that in this first book I’m reviewing, I’m reminded to read and study the Bible with broader vision. This reminder helps me to attempt to zoom out … to process what I read and study through prayer. It’s so easy to allow my own traditions, culture and presuppositions to be my teacher rather than asking the Holy Spirit to be my Teacher!
Some people are opposed to Bible commentaries because they believe that they tend to guide/lead our thinking instead of the Bible itself. But even without other commentaries, our mind is already our own personal commentary. It guides our interpretations by filtering what we read through our past beliefs, experiences, and personal traditions. Unfortunately, we are never without preconceived thoughts. When we approach scripture and learning, recognizing the work of the Spirit in teaching us is of utmost importance!
I love that I have been able to live in different cities here in the US because even in our own country, cities tend to adopt their own cultures. Although we are still a united “America” in many ways, there have been definite distinctions within our own country’s culture that help me to recognize that on an even grander scale, there is an entire world that views the Bible from quite a varied perspective. My desire is not to be open-minded to any thought out there, but I do desire to be open-hearted to the Spirit’s wisdom and insight into who God is. (1 Cor 2:6-16)
And so I begin at the beginning …
Practice asking, “How does this passage apply to God’s people?” whether we are “Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free,” we do not study the Scriptures only for ourselves. We study the Scriptures, to paraphrase Paul, so that the “word of Christ [may] dwell in you richly as we teach and admonish one another with all wisdom”
Westerners … tend to view the world dualistically. Things are true or false, right or wrong, good or bad. We have little patience for ambiguity or for the unsettling reality that values change over time. We want to know: Is it okay to drink alcohol-yes or no? What about sex-good or bad? Tensions like these are so common in our culture that Hollywood has invented an image for it. When someone faces a dilemma, up pops an angelic image of himself or herself on one shoulder and a devilish one on the other. The symbolism is clear: our choice is always between saintly or sinful, holy or unholy. It is difficult to live in this tension. So we feel happiest when we can satisfy two conflicting mores with some sort of compromise, as our Christian fathers did with theater. This applies, of course, to other mores, including: sex, food and money.
Christians are tempted to believe that our mores originate from the Bible. We believe it is inappropriate or appropriate to drink alcohol, for example, “because the Bible says so.” The trouble is, what is “proper” by our standards-even by our Christian standards-is as often projected onto the Bible as it is determined by it. This is because our cultural mores can lead us to emphasize certain passages of Scripture and ignore others.
What can be more dangerous is that our mores are a lens through which we view and interpret the world. Because mores are not universal, we may not be aware that these different gut-level reactions to certain behaviors can affect the way we read the Bible. Indeed, if they are not made explicit, our cultural mores can lead us to misread the Bible.
[Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes: Removing Cultural Binders to Better Understand the Bible]
REALLY good stuff.