I've just submitted my fourth (out of seven) assignment for the semester. It's a rather satisfying feeling to hit that 'submit' button and be done with a piece of work that has challenged the very heart of what I believe about the Bible.
Over the past few weeks, in my Religious Education unit, we have been looking at Biblical criticism. You may have heard of the words hermeneutics or exegesis. Essentially it is the scholarly, scientific methods through which scripture is examined, interpreted and understood. I have come away from these past few weeks feeling like the only way to understand the Bible is to have a theological degree in hermeneutics and ancient languages. I have felt uptight, tense and ill-at-ease. Critical methods for interpreting the Bible are helpful - there is no doubt about that. I have learnt that some of the perceived inconsistencies can actually be explained. In so many ways I have had "aha" moments about the Bible.
There are a ridiculous number of methods for interpreting the Bible. Methods that are complex and hotly debated amongst scholars; old methods superseded by new methods, each looking at the Bible through its own lens, looking for particular things. Each method brings something different to the table. But they are all human endeavours. All human perspectives on what the Bible says, about what the original author may have intended and about the life context of the first readers. So I have been cautious and I have had this wariness deep within.
Tonight I figured it out. A beautifully expressed quote from R C Sproul in his book Five Things Every Christian Needs to Grow (thank you internet!!) eloquently nailed the heart of the problem I had been wrestling with:
"The Bible is also profitable for reproof and correction,
which we as Christians continually need. It is fashionable
in some academic circles to exercise scholarly criticism
of the Bible. In so doing, scholars place themselves
above the Bible and seek to correct it. If indeed
the Bible is the Word of God, nothing could be
more arrogant. It is God who corrects us; we don’t
correct Him. We do not stand over God but under Him"
(from Chapter 1, emphasis mine)
Whilst interpretation methods can be really helpful, the Bible is so powerful all on its own. It is God-breathed (or inspired, depending on your version). It reveals the character and heart of the God who created us. It reveals the incredible and perfect love our God us for us. It convicts us, directs us, instructs us and transforms us. The Bible is powerful enough to change the very hearts and lives of people without scholarly explanation.
My assignment has been submitted. My world has been righted.