In another life I would have followed the formula of finding the meaning of the text (from the original languages or from the King James Bible, depending on the fundamentalist brand one claimed) assuming that, unless otherwise clearly stated, it was to be interpreted literally, and then finding some way to fit this meaning into my worldview or paradigm.
Add to that interpretation the need to “rightly divide the word of truth”–at least as far as C.I. Scofield or J.N. Darby understood this to be–and reading the Bible became more of a (a) chore, (b) frustration, (c) serious exercise with dire and eternal consequences, (d) obligation, or (e) all of the above.
I don’t take this as seriously (or literally) today. Whilst my high view of Scripture as a Sacred Text remains the same, my interpretive framework is vastly different.
I always enjoy the way Richard Rohr can articulate what I, in my less-refined way, try to say:
When you encounter a truly sacred text, the first questions are not: Did this literally happen just as it states? How can I be saved? What is the right thing for me to do? What is the dogmatic pronouncement here? Does my church agree with this? Who is right and who is wrong here? These are largely ego questions, I am afraid. They are questions that try to secure your position, not questions that help you go on a spiritual path of faith and trust. They constrict you, whereas the purpose of The Sacred is to expand you. I know these are the first questions that come to our mind because that is where we usually live—inside of our mental ego. They are the questions we were trained to ask, because everybody else asks them, unfortunately!
Having read sacred text, I would invite you to ponder these questions:
- What is God doing here?
- What does this say about who God is?
- What does this say about how I can then relate to such a God?
Adapted from the webcast A Teaching on Wondrous Encounters