Recently, the local church that my wife and I are part of, South West London Vineyard, has been having a slightly different Sunday morning sermon series. Normally, we’ll go through a book of the Bible (the series on James last year was superb), or a theme, like vulnerability or the Kingdom of God. For a good chunk of sundays recently, we’ve been thinking quite differently, with one of our Senior Leaders, Neil, preaching on and around the question of:
“What do we do with the Bible?”
In an attempt to draw together some of the questions that have bubbled up in evening services (more discursive) and in informal conversations around the church, Neil decided to embark on a series of thinking about what the Bible is (And is not), and how we can interpret it and make sense of it in 21st Century London, when it was predominantly written by people living long long ago and very far away. It’s been a great series of talks, ruffling some feathers, but constantly inviting people back to the big story of the Bible, it’s primary character, God, and the hero, Jesus. Along the way we’ve touched on thorny issues – homophobia, misogyny, and Old Testament genocide, to name but a few.
You can listen to the six talks on the SWLV website, and I’d warmly encourage you to, whether you’ve never thought about the Bible at all, or think about it all the time! Throughout the series, Neil recommended The Bible Project, which is a fantastic resource packed with videos.
I’d also like to recommend a few books on the topic of the Bible and what we do with it today:
- Andrew Wilson’s Unbreakable: What the Son of God said about the Word of God is a brilliant short introduction to the kinds of things we’ve been exploring. Wonder what the Bible has to do with Jesus? Read this little book.
- Pete Phillips’ Engaging the Word is a great book for thoughtful Christians – asking us to think about what we mean when we say something is ‘biblical’, and helping us think through how to thoughtfully use the Bible in our life.
- John Stott’s helpful little book The Bible: A Book Like No Other is a simply superb little look at what the Bible is and is not.
- Rowan Williams’ little book Being Christian shows how the Bible is vital part of Christian spirituality.
- Anything by Anthony Thiselton on Hermeneutics is worth reading, particularly his little pamphlet Can we make the Bible mean whatever we want it to mean? or the longer and more technical The Hermeneutics of Doctrine.
- For a helpful overview of how different Christians read the Bible differently, I’d recommend heartily Five Views on Biblical Hermeneutics, edited by Beth Stovell and Stanley Porter.
On a couple of the big issues that are raised when we talk about the Bible, I’d recommend the following:
- On human identity, Paula Gooder’s little book Body is superb, and a slightly longer read is Klyne Snodgrass’s Who God Says You Are.
- On Paul (who seems to trigger quite a few people!) – Paul Behaving Badly and How to Like Paul Again, both simple readable books by real scholars, explaining some complexity with wonderful simplicity (and humour!)
- On sexuality, Todd Wilson’s Mere Sexuality is excellent, and Sam Allberry’s Is God Anti-Gay? gives a slightly longer answer than just ‘no’.
- I’ll be blogging about violence in Scripture separately, so keep an eye out for that…
You might also be interested in the script of a talk I gave on this kind of issue at a recent theology-themed evening service, pondering the differences between the Old Testament and the New Testament, or at least that was the starting point.