Thursday, September 06, 2007

Reading the Good Book like a good book.

Changing gears here: something for you folks who are into Jesus.

I read the Harry Potter series last month, as you may know, and towards the end of the month, I realized that in my excitement over the novels, my personal Bible reading had kind of fallen to the wayside (easy to do, when you fall asleep reading a couple hundred HP pages a night).

So I decided, for the month of September, to read nothing but the Bible. It's not as horrible or boring as one might wrongly assume. Granted, you do run into the occasional list of "begats," but with a readable modern translation, that's not a big deal. Also, it's cool to trace family names.

Here's my problem: When I did any kind of "devotional" Bible reading in the past, I usually began with prayer, basically devoting the time to God and trying to make myself attentive to what the Spirit of God says through the text. Clearing my head and really focusing in on gleaning inspiration from the text.

However, it's hard to do that, when I'm grabbing a page or two here and there on the train ride home. In fact, in those times, I find myself just reading it "for fun," and not to seek any kind of spiritual understanding.

So my question is: Would you feel it's "wrong" to just read the Bible "for fun"? That is, to read it without really expecting anything out of it? To read it as if it were a novel (meaning, just enjoying the story)?

That's what's weirding me out. I figure, any reading of the Bible is good. Yet, if I'm not approaching the text quasi-ceremonially, as the actual "Word of God," does it do me any good? This is not to say I doubt or dispute the veracity or inspiration. What I'm saying is, does reading the Bible outside of a special "I'm reading the Holy Word of God" time in any way diminish the impact of the text, or somehow disrespect what the text is and is intended to be? If I just read it on the train as someone else reads the newspaper or a biography of Churchill, do my actions "lower" the holy writ (not in its own standing certainly, but perhaps subconsciously for me)?

I don't know. This just started bugging me. I'm in the first Chronicles, and I was reading about David's mighty men, and just digging the way the text describes them ("faces like lions" and whatnot). Then I'd stop and say, "But this is the Bible, shouldn't I be reading it more... spiritually or something?" So in this instance, I almost feel like I've traded off the deep and meaningful spiritual appreciation of the text for a more common literary appreciation.

I mean, whatever happens, the Word is paramount. I continue to believe it is the inspired, inerrant, unchanging Word of God, true and good and impactful. I understand that it was written with literary devices employed in some parts, and I read it with an eye to that (so I'm not a blind full-literalist), but I think those places are self-evident, and overall I do not doubt the truth of the totality, for the Bible gives me no reason to. (That's right, folks, I'm an actual dyed-in-the-wool 7-day creationist. Why the heck not? God's big. He can do cool stuff.)

The Book means a lot to me. So the last thing I want to do is diminish it, either to myself or others. That's why this whole "proper reading" thing is even coming up for me, even if it is a tempest in a teapot. I'm probably worrying over nothing, but I can't be too careful. I don't want to take the book that, by its reading, brought nations to repentance with days of mourning and prayer, and treat it like it's mere entertainment. The Bible is not mere anything.

What do you think?

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