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Getting Away From “Getting Something Out of” the Bible…

by Joe Pursch on January 30th, 2011

I know…that sounds like a heretical headline, doesn’t it?  I mean, what could possibly be wrong with wanting to get something out of the Bible, right? Well, let me explain. Lately I have been struck by the sheer level of presumption that we regularly bring to our reading of the Scripture. We seem blissfully happy to ram our own impressions into the motif of the Word in any given context, so confident are we not only in how we see things, but in what we want to see in Scripture itself… in what we want to get “out of the Bible”. I wonder in fact if we Westerners have actually invented the concept of “getting something out of the Bible” without ever considering for a moment that such an idea may do great violence to the intent of God in our lives. Who are we to believe that our greatest need when we come to God’s Word is to get something out of it? Doesn’t this imply that we come to God and to His Word with a deadly presupposition, and that is that we can “use” Him and His truth in any way whatsoever, guiltlessly and confidently?

What if we are meant to come to God’s Word not to find some information to use but rather to discover a Person to know? There is a universe of difference in those two approaches. In the first we can get a whole lot from the Bible without ever meeting the God of the Bible. We can in fact spend hours, even years, gaining all kinds of factual data from the Scripture without ever bending our human wills to submit to the teachings of the Author of Scripture. We can become like the knowledgeable but spiritually ignorant Pharisees whom Jesus condemned in the Gospels; ecclesiastical experts who searched the Scriptures daily but never caught one glimpse of the supreme subject of the Scriptures: Jesus Himself.  I fear that our modern Western penchant for practicality is leading us into spiritual poverty in our encounter with the Bible, if indeed we can even call our engaging with the Bible an encounter. For after all, an encounter only happens within a relationship.

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