Sunday, January 01, 2012

Reading the Bible... 2012+

I suspect that I am not alone in having failed to sustain overly-ambitious Bible-reading plans in previous years. McCheyne's famous and majestically constructed plan is one I have failed to complete several times. Furthermore, I found that just trying to get through that much volume was becoming a chore, and I became more interested in ticking off the box on the reading plan than listening to the text. That's like becoming so into Munro-bagging that you stop enjoying being out in the hills!

Tim Chester has recently been promoting a Bible-reading plan which avoids some of these pitfalls. Called "The Edge Network Weekly Bible Reading Plan", it divides the texts up by weeks rather than days, and takes three years to cover the whole Old Testament once and the New, twice. The plan is online here, and it looks pretty good to me. As of today, I am going to give it a go!

The Bible is by any measure or standard, a quite unique and remarkable book. It is agreed by all to be a work of massive historical and literary importance worth of serious reading and consideration by anyone who wants to understand our world today. Western culture in particular has been historically rooted deeply in the message of the Bible's pages, while over the last century the specific trajectory of secularism has been shaped by rejection of this book. The Bible is a constantly surprising collection of documents gathered from across centuries of different cultures and languages; it contains some things which a child can grasp, and others which perplex the scholars. It reflects on love, death, sex, food, ageing, marriage, suffering, pain, he origins of life, the destiny of the soul, the purpose of life, the nature of happiness, the causes of evil, the nature and existence of God, the destiny of the universe, and makes the remarkable claim that all of this is centred on a 1st Century Galileean carpenter/preacher whose work is the pivotal episode in the history of the world.

The human story of the Bible is enough to make it essential reading in itself. Christians however are convinced that there is another dimension to this collection of documents. Historic Christian theology and immediate spiritual experience converge around the claim that the Bible has a divine inspiration; that is that the life-experiences, personalities and circumstances of each author were so arranged that the words they wrote did not merely express their thoughts, but contained the revelation of God himself. Furthermore, the gathering of the whole collection was a supernaturally guided endeavour which gives authority and clarity to the 'whole' work together. This means that individual texts (however lovely or problematic) are not the sole  focus, but the shape of the great narrative which starts with the pre-existence of God, centres on Jesus Christ (who it maintains is God walking amongst us), and culminates with the New Heaven and Earth, in which God and His people are finally re-reunited, is. Christian spiritual experience includes the idea that The Holy Spirit was the person who 'superintended' the writing the Bible, and that He is still in the world today and indeed lives with the believer. As such there is a deep resonance between the person who is open to the Spirit of God and the voice of God, heard through the ancient words of The Bible.

So, it's January the 1st - and I am starting a new Bible-reading plan, if anyone is interested in reading along with me follow the links. Likewise, if you want to check on my progress during the year, and prod me back into action if I start falling behind, that would be welcome encouragement!

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