There are two ways to read the Bible:
Glean from the text what it says and means. This is essentially asking the question: what does this passage mean?
Take whatever you believe and read it into the text. This is essentially asking the question: how can I make the Bible support what I already believe?
Reading the text the first way takes the Bible as a starting place. It transcends personal preference and preconceived ideas. Scripture becomes a premise, and whatever it says transforms the reader’s life and opinion. Reading the text the second way takes one’s personal preferences, ideals and beliefs as a starting place. From there, the reader makes an interpretation of scripture based on their own ideas or feelings. If their ideas and what the scripture says don’t line up, the reader will morph scripture to accommodate their beliefs.
Before you start thinking these are both equally helpful ways of reading the Bible. Let’s look at what is going on at the heart of these two approaches. In the first, the heart of the reader is to understand what God is saying, to believe it and to follow it even when that has radical and unpleasant implications in their lives. In the second case, the heart of the reader is to continue believing what they already believe. Imagine waking up every day for the rest of your life thinking, Yep, I’m still right! That’s the idea of this second method. You might find a way to be right forever, but you will never change.
If you’ve decided that the first method seems like the way to go, I encourage you to keep the following ideas in mind and then to check out the resources page to find a template for scripture-reading that may (or may not) be helpful to you in your daily devotions:
- The Bible is just like every other book you’ve ever read. The Bible is very similar to other biographies: it’s people writing about what they witnessed or experienced.
- The Bible isn’t like any other book you’ve ever read. The stories in the Bible uniquely come together to tell a larger story: God’s pursuit of redemption in the world. Although they didn’t realize it at the time, the authors of the Bible were telling little pieces of a larger story that God has breathed throughout history.
- The answers to the questions you have, however skeptical of God, are most likely going to lead you into the next step in knowing him. I’ve met so many Christians who read the Bible and have questions about it and don’t ask those questions or seek answers for them. If you’re confused, search for the truth. Don’t be afraid to doubt until you can make sense of what you read in the Bible.
- Anyone is good enough to read the Bible. Some parts are confusing, yes, but you’re perfectly equipped to read scripture and make sense of it yourself. The the PDF attached here is meant to guide you through what ideas and questions to look for while you’re reading. This helps you engage with the text a little bit. Just keep asking the question, “What was this wrote to mean?” and you will find that there is so much about God, about yourself and about the life he hopes for you that no pastor has ever mentioned. Let the stories, letters, songs and parables wash over you as you read and watch as God changes your life.