On reading the Bible

This is from a letter ( somewhat revised because this isn't a letter ) which I wrote to a correspondent. It is an answer to his remark :

> ..... I always say: the Bible is right, but my
> understanding of it may not be.

Please don't stop reading when I say that my view is different ! I believe that God is right, and I believe that those people who have been involved in the recording, transmission, and translation of the Bible have done their best to preserve its meaning - but they were all human, and fallible, and they were using language.

We have this wonderful gift of language, and we ( all of us - I'm no exception ) manage to misuse it to make divisions where none is intended, to misrepresent, to mislead, and so on. We do so even when we try our hardest to be precise and careful. I like to believe that I'm more careful than most, and I contrive to be misunderstood more often than is comfortable. Since childhood, I have had a horror of misleading people, but I still do it. And I do it while living in the same society as those I mislead, sharing the same background and understanding.

Having said that, I believe that the Bible is essential to my faith, and therefore to my life. About 25 years ago I came back to active Christianity after a period of wandering, and didn't know what I should do, so I prayed to God about it. After all, I had much expertise in scholarship, some musical talent, rudimentary but effective constructional skills, etc. Surely He would be keen to set me to work in some demanding activity where these valuable abilities could be used - perhaps this would require me to make sacrifices, but I was ready for that ( or so I thought ).

The answer, when it came ( quite soon ), was very clear : "Read the Bible." What ? Is that ALL ? "Yes." But, but, but .... "Read the Bible."

I thank God that from somewhere I - or, more probably, He - dredged up enough humility for me to do what I was told. I have done so ever since, and it has illuminated my faith to a degree which I would not have believed possible.

But it has worked not as a textbook, but as a view of humanity's ( or, at least, one strand of humanity's ) developing understanding of its relationship with the almighty loving Creator Whom we shall never understand fully in this life. I have not used commentaries or other human sources, again - as I believe - as instructed by God. Instead, I have spent much time considering the text, and praying for guidance in understanding. I believe that God has, as always, been faithful, and granted me some understanding. He has certainly granted me joy and peace beyond all my expectations.

Other Christian comments.

Alan Creak,
2003 May.