Friday, 10 January 2014

Literal or Serious?

To take the Scriptures seriously is not to take them literally. Literalism is invariably the lowest and least level of meaning. Serious reading of Scripture will allow you to find an ever-new spiritual meaning for the liberation of history, the liberation of the soul, and the liberation of God in every generation. Then the text is true on many levels, instead of trying to prove it is true on just the one simple, factual level. Sacred texts always maximize your possibilities for life and love, which is why we call them sacred. I am afraid we have for too long used the Bible merely to prove various church positions, which largely narrows their range and depth. Instead of transforming people, the Biblical texts became utilitarian and handy ammunition. -- Richard Rohr
I find this quote from Richard Rohr both intriguing and life-giving. It comes from one of his Daily Meditations which a friend of mine sends me on occasion when she thinks they will interest me. And this one certainly does. What if we came to the biblical text seriously, instead of literally?

This reminds me of a conversation I had recently with a friend of mine about a particular shift in my theological understanding. That shift didn't come from a more careful literal reading of scripture. It didn't even come from more deep exegetical work. And at first I thought that was a problem. But recently I'm coming to understand that it actually came from more serious work that included a serious reading of scripture as a whole, an examination of the Christian tradition, contemporary knowledge and understanding, and my own experiences and those of others. Some of you might recognize this as a variation on the Wesleylan Quadrilateral of Scripture, Tradition, Reason, and Experience. While I don't use these four avenues or define them in quite the same ways as Wesley did (he might be appalled by my interpretation), I find it helpful when I consider how I approach the biblical narrative. I cannot come to the text as a blank slate. I am shaped and informed, always, by the tradition with which I identify, the entire biblical story which has shaped my spiritual life, my own life experiences and the stories of those around me, and the boundless information that we gain through ongoing study in a variety of fields. I can't come to scripture without all of this. And what I love is that when I honestly come with all of it, I receive so much more from the text.

I would encourage others to read the rest of Rohr's reflection. It's short, but valuable. :)

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