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Should Christians read the Bible?

By Peter Sellick - posted Friday, 11 August 2017

This means that the bible is not a universal book that can be profitably read by anyone because they lack the discipline and do not recognise the theology and authority of the Church to do so.

The core mission of the Bible Society is shown to be vapid because the bible does not make any sense outside the polity of the Church. This is not to say that all biblical studies are worthless, I greatly value my copies of Claus Westermann's "Genesis 1-11" and Raymond Brown's "The Birth of the Messiah." However, I also realise that I have given away most of the commentaries I bought thinking that they would aid my preaching.

Now, as a listener to sermons rather than a preacher of them I often hear sermons that take only a short step from a biblical commentary and they tend to lack the piercing insight that troubles us and creates new things within us. It may be that biblical commentaries are in fact a distraction from the real work of preaching.


Hauerwas observes that it is useless giving a child a bible of whatever age because those children are already "in the possession of habits far too corrupt for them to be encouraged to read the Bible on their own." They are specifically corrupted in thinking that they can make any sense of the bible apart from the discipline taught them by a Christian congregation. Hauerwas explains:

The reformation doctrine of sola scriptura, joined to the invention of the printing press and underwritten by the democratic trust in the intelligence of the "common person" has created the situation that now makes people believe that they can read the bible "on their own". That presumption must be challenged, and that is why Scripture should be taken away from Christians in North America.

When the bible is read according to "common sense" it easily becomes "the ideology for a politics quite different from the politics of the Church." This explains a lot about the religious right in America. Evangelical Christianity can boast of following Jesus while supporting the right to bear arms, neglect and blame the poor for being poor and who think that universal health care, the sharing of a crucial resource, is the work of the devil. How else could so many American Christians vote for Trump, the epitome of narcissistic individualism.

The Church knows that the reading of Scripture should change us and make us a people set apart. But individualist reading often leads only to the confirmation of what we like to believe as well as to nurture all kinds of religious psychopathology.

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About the Author

Peter Sellick an Anglican deacon working in Perth with a background in the biological sciences. He has a website called Coondle Art Presentations.

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