Book of the Month: October 2019

What do we do with the Bible? By Richard Rohr

What do we do with these bibles?

What do we do with the Bible?

And putting bibles away so they are safe but maybe just out of reach is something we can all be tempted to do with the difficult and disturbing book which is at the heart of our Christian faith. After all, we know what it says – don’t we? Well actually, Richard Rohr suggests, we may not. We may only know what we think it says or, worse, what we think it ought to say.

Whilst I’m not sure I agree with his assertion that “only converted people can be entrusted with inspired writings” (is there no space for the bible to be a means of conversion, or at least a beginning to the process?), it is true that “in the hands of egocentric, unloving or power hungry people” the bible has been used to justify the unjustifiable. Rohr doesn’t mince his words about the dangers of both proof texting and personal hermeneutic and it is his passionate commitment to an open, contemplative, prayerful reading of the bible (even the difficult and contradictory bits) which makes this book so worthwhile. You may not agree with everything he says, but you will enjoy the ride!

Rohr suggests that our experience of reading the bible has become transactional rather than transformational, placing “conformity and group belonging over love, service or actual change of heart.”  In focusing on the words instead of The Word, we may have lost the point and I was struck by his reminder that, in many medieval paintings of the Annunciation, Mary drops her book as she hears Gabriel’s message. It’s OK to stop reading here and just ponder that thought.

The solution to the problem, Rohr argues, is to turn from a personal hermeneutic, with its capacity for conscious or unconscious bias, to a Jesus hermeneutic which doesn’t just “quote the one-liners” but which imitates his world view, his biases, his pattern of interpretation and his challenge to authority:  the “constant daring [which] is surely what got him killed by the priests, the scribes and the teachers of the Law.” It’s a hermeneutic which is still daring – and dangerous, too, if we let it out of the box.

The book closes with three statements:

The corruption of the best is always the worst

Only people who do not need to be powerful can handle spiritual power

Only love can be entrusted with the Truth

Reviewed by Revd Norma Fergusson

What do we do with the Bible? is just £8.50 until 31st October 2019 (RRP £9.99). Available from our online shop + £2.50 postage, or mail order by phoning 01722 326899 or emailing bookshop@sarum.ac.uk.

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