What’s the point of reading the Bible if it’s not a rule book or to be always taken literally?

Every Tuesday morning a group of about 8-10 people in my church meet up to read the Bible together. For an hour and a half!

We normally get through about 16 chapters – which can be a whole book or at least half a book.

So why do we do it? What’s the point?

Readers of this website will know that I believe we have to be very careful about how we interpret scripture. How we need to read passages in the context of both the whole book they are contained in and within the Bible as a whole. And then we need to check how our interpretations match up to the revelation of God through the person of Jesus Christ.

So is it even worth reading these ancient texts?

Well, I would say a wholehearted YES!

Not only is reading scripture intellectually fascinating but it is also sacramental. By which I mean that, when we read the Bible, God often speaks to through it. We often go away from our Tuesday morning sessions with a verse echoing in our heads - where God seems to be speaking to something very particular to our lives today.

Of course, we often have discussions about what the scriptures mean and we don’t always agree. There are often different interpretations of texts. And not only our little group but the whole Church often has to allow these discussions to continue for years, even decades. Until, as Jesus put it in John 16.13, the spirit of truth guides us into all truth.

It’s not easy to cope with a fractious debate continuing over a long period – we all know how challenging it has been to engage with different opinions over Brexit. But sometimes it is necessary and the right thing to do.

Discussion, debate, reflection and exploration should be a normal and essential part of Church life, as are always looking for new disclosures of the unfailing love of God in new contexts. And looking to the Bible to be a model and inspiration for such creative exploration, rather than an unchangeable barrier to new thought.

The Bible is not itself the revelation of God; it is not the incarnation. But it is the Church’s witness to the revelation of God in the person of Jesus. And it is an expression of the diversity of human responses to that revelation. And, as such, it has a vital and central place in Christian life.

Furthermore, it is a great joy and inspiration to read. So do get a group together and give it a try.