Forming Faith Blog

Bible Orientation (September 6, 2020)

A compass on a wooden table.
Returning to Scripture

The summer is over, and school is about to start (or has started for some). This means that the 37 weeks of the Narrative Lectionary are almost upon us (the first Sunday is Sept. 13). If you have just started reading my blog this summer (or today), I use this blog during the program year to reflect on the upcoming Bible passage assigned by the Narrative Lectionary. So, next week I will tackle Genesis 2 and 3: Creation and Fall.

The Bible Is Central

The Bible is central to our faith and worship. It is not the center of our worship; that would be idolatry. But it is one of the primary vehicles for our encounter with Jesus. It is hard to have a relationship with someone if you don’t know anything about them. In addition to learning about God, the Bible teaches us how God expects us to act. So, reading the Bible is important.

The Problem of Interpretation

But there’s a problem. The Bible is a set of documents whose writing spans possibly 700-800 years. The latest part was written shy of two millennia ago. This can provide trouble when it comes to understanding and applying Scripture to our lives, as interpretation is the first step. We don’t expect people to be able to fully understand Shakespeare, and he wrote a measly 400 years ago.

It certainly helps that we have access to Bible translations in our own (modern) languages. That those translations are themselves interpretations is a topic for another post. But the historical, geographical, cultural, etc. contexts are different than ours, so we will not be able to fully understand Scripture without first understanding the contexts it was written in. And this is especially a problem for anyone who doesn’t have any type of biblical training: including parents and kids at home.

[Note: There is plenty of material in the Bible that can be understood without knowing the cultural (etc.) context. I argue that there are many things that can be misunderstood without learning some context.]

Bible Orientation

How do you solve this problem? It all comes down to faith formation [did you guess I was going there?], specifically education. The problem of “not knowing” can be solved by “learning.” While teaching about the Bible is probably something you already do, there are three general ideas that I think should be included in any type of Bible orientation:

  • Know there’s a problem. It’s possible that you have people who don’t realize that they might be misinterpreting the Bible because they don’t understand the context. They need to realize that this is a problem.
  • Relieve pressure. Sometimes people feel like they need to become Bible experts to be “good Christians.” It is clearly a good thing if someone is inspired to put in the effort, even get a degree. But everyone needs to know that they will come across things they don’t understand, and that’s okay.
  • Provide appropriate resources. Are there resources that you turn to when you need help? Are any online or accessible to laypeople? I would suggest creating a list to share. But, since interpretive resources necessarily come from a specific theological tradition, be sure they are teaching what you think should be taught.
Our Resources

If you are looking for resources, we have some for you! That’s what we publish here at Spirit & Truth Publishing. We have curricula and other resources that follow the Narrative Lectionary, the Revised Common Lectionary, teach about liturgy and worship, and help with intergenerational confirmation!

In response to this COVID-19 pandemic, we have also created two new products, God’s Word @ Home (Revised Common Lectionary) and God’s Story @ Home (Narrative Lectionary). Both resources are designed with short, simple lessons that can be emailed or otherwise sent home to families. The whole family can then participate in learning and growing together with the lectionary readings you are using in worship (or just providing a biblical overview through the Narrative Lectionary).

Faith formation, including biblical learning, is something we do together as a community, helping each other learn and grow. So, let’s grow in faith together!

Blessings to you in this difficult time,

Gregory Rawn (Publisher)

Our Faith Formation Resources

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