This Sunday we put new Bibles into the hands of our fourth graders. I wish you could see their faces at this moment. They receive a grown-up book that enjoys a privileged place and unique authority within our community as a centerpiece of faith. All that we believe is within the Bible.
It is a great chance for us all to rehearse the basics and lift up the essentials about the Book. Consider, if you will, the following statements, as you open the Holy Scriptures to your children. I have summarized these assertions from noted Biblical scholars Richard Hayes and Ellen Davis.
- Scripture truthfully unfolds the story of how God creates, judges, and saves the world.
- While there is much diversity in Scripture—in forms of literature and in the message—the Bible is a remarkable coherent, dramatic narrative that advances the story of God moving with and on behalf of humanity, taking us forward in a definite direction.
- Faithful interpretation of Scripture reminds us to consider the narrative the narrative as a whole and to engage both the Old Testament in our interpretation of the New Testament and the New Testament in our interpretation of the Old Testament.
- Biblical texts don’t have a single meaning limited to the intent of the author. Rather, the meaning is thick, multivalent, and polyphonic. God gives Scripture multiple complex senses. We are not to invent our own meaning in a text, but if we read the Bible without imagination, keeping our personal story out of the ancient story, we will miss much of it.
- The four Gospels are each unique, trustworthy narratives telling the truth of Jesus’ life.
- Faithful interpretation of scripture requires our participation in and formation by the church, that community brought into being and pointed toward God’s redemption.
- The saints of the church provide helpful guidance in our interpretation and performance of Scripture.
- Christians must interpret the Bible in conversation with a wider range of other readers and interpreters outside the church. While the Bible claims to be essential spiritual truth, nowhere does it pretend to be the only truth or the only form of truth.
- We live in the tension between what we have experienced of God in the past, what we know of God in the present, and what we hope God might yet do in the future. In light of this tension, the church should expect fresh new readings of Scripture in light of the Holy Spirit being alive in the world, making all things new, filling the moment with light.