Last week I went over Brian McLaren's thoughts about the overarching story line of the Bible. Now let's take a look at McLaren's #2 question in A New Kind of Christianity: How should the Bible be understood?
McLaren starts things off in chapter 7 by stating the obvious--we've really messed things up! We've used the Bible to condone slavery, misogyny, segregation, and (currently) ignoring our role in being stewards for God's creation. The problem, he writes, is that we've been reading the Bible like a legal constitution, citing various verses to prove how we're right. The Bible is not a legal constitution, but "a portable library of poems, prophecies, histories, fables, parables, letters, sage sayings, quarrels, and so on." (p. 79) It's an inspired library, no doubt, but a library nonetheless.
So how should we approach this portable inspired library? Using that classic emerging buzzword, McLaren says that the revelation occurs through conversation. He uses the Book of Job as an example. Most of Job is told as a conversation between Job and his friends. Job says, "Why is this happening to me?" and his friends reply, "Well, you must've done something wrong." Finally God chimes in, but instead of giving a straight answer He asks Job more questions.
Revelation doesn't simply reside in this or that particular verse of Job like cereal in a box, waiting to be opened and poured out into a bowl. Instead, it emerges through the whole story of Job, through the conversation that unfolds between these many voices, like meaning in a novel or perhaps even the punch line in a joke. (p. 95)
As you may remember from my interview with Adele Sakler, we talked about how there's room in Christianity for different interpretations. This is why I believe in conversation, because I think we can learn a lot from each other if we all just talked. And as Rob Bell once said, we don't follow the Bible, we interpret it. However, recently a friend of mine shared this article by Kevin DeYoung with me, and DeYoung says that, even though respectful dialogue itself is a good thing, the conversation sometimes drags on:
Intra-Christian debates are just as overrun by dialogue - the tool of choice for resolving (read: delaying) denominational conflicts, especially those having to do with homosexuality. The plea is always for more talking. But do we ever call an end to the meeting of the minds and simply make up our minds? Do we ever declare, ala Martin Luther, "Here we stand"?
So, what do you all think? Does revelation occur through conversation? Should we read the Bible as a legal constitution, or a library?