Why read the Bible?

I posed that question on Facebook last month. More than 20 friends, including Christians, agnostics and atheists, responded. 

Some responses were snarky, most were serious and all were revealing. Reasons ranged from the importance of reading the Bible as a work of literature, to the importance of reading the Bible for its historical and theological significance. 

A few of my favourite comments:

• “It contains stories of repentance and gratitude, and reading these stories can itself become a practice of repentance and gratitude.”

• “Grrrrrrrrrr, my mother is a fundamentalist, so I believe it reinforces judgmental, unreflective thinking. Basically, it magnifies your bias. If your bias is [educated] and virtuous . . . then the Bible is a wonderful guide. If it’s in the hands of the wrong people, it’s a weapon of hate.”

• “I do not lay claim to Christian beliefs. But I deem the Bible incredibly impor-tant to read due to its incredible impact on shaping history as well as present-day politics and philosophies.”

• “I’d say that while I’m not of the modernist mindset—that there is one sole truth, and the Bible contains it—I do think that the Bible contains truth about not just the character of God, but also deals with some very important questions that most people try to answer throughout their life.”

• “Because we regard it as sacred Scripture and our source for knowing who Jesus was and who God is. As such, it also functions as a significant [albeit not the only] source for Christian [and particularly Anabaptist] ethics.”

• “The Old Testament has stories of calling and freedom for people who didn’t deserve it any more or less than I do. And then there’s the story of God becoming human and disarming power by dying and rising. Those are reasons for me to read [and think about] the Bible.”

• “So as not to become one of those people that have never read the book they so willingly thump.”

I asked the question, “Why read the Bible?” because, in the coming year, I will be reading my Bible from cover to cover. I’m not as familiar with Scripture as I’d like to be. If one claims to be a Christian, I think it’s important that one turns to, with at least some regularity, the book that tells the story of what Christian beliefs and history are based on.

I have not done that in recent years. I’m sure I’ve read most of what’s in the Bible at various points—one of my majors in university was biblical and theological studies—but there’s more pop culture trivia rattling around in my brain than there is knowledge from the stories that my faith is supposedly built on. 

I don’t like that.

Ask me anything about U2’s catalogue or the TV show Breaking Bad and in seconds I’ll give you the answer, with some thoughtful analysis. But ask me a question about the Ten Commandments, the minor prophets or the synoptic gospels, and I’ll struggle to give you a coherent response.

I want to have deep thoughts. I want to ponder my faith a little bit. I figure one of the best ways to do that is to immerse myself in the Bible. I’ve never read the Bible from beginning to end and, more importantly, reading my Bible on a regular basis has not become a habit in my life. I’d like it to be.

I’ll read a New International Version Bible I received in church when I was in Grade 9. I’m following a reading plan that requires me to read one to three chapters each day. You can visit it at www.tinyurl.com/cmyorb14 or cut out the first four months of the reading guide on page 35. I’m calling this A Year of Reading Biblically, and each month in Young Voices, I’ll write a reflection on what I’m learning and how it’s impacting my life.

I invite you to join me in A Year of Reading Biblically. My articles will appear in the Young Voices section, which is a part of the magazine aimed at readers between the ages of 16 and 30. But regardless of your age, I want you to take part if you are interested. 

Pick a translation of the Bible you’re comfortable with and check out the reading plan I’m using. The goal here is progress and not perfection, so if you miss a day or two, that’s okay. Do what you can to get back on track and keep reading.

I’d also like to interact with you during A Year of Reading Biblically. In between articles, I’ll tweet my thoughts from Canadian Mennonite’s Twitter account (twitter.com/CanMenno) using the hashtag #yorb14. Feel free to do the same.

I’ll also post my articles to Canadian Mennonite’s Facebook page (facebook.com/Canadian.Mennonite), and of course you’ll be able to read them in the magazine and online. You can leave a comment on Facebook, comment on the articles on Canadian Mennonite’s website (canadianmennonite.org) or in the magazine (letters@canadianmenonite.org), or send me an e-mail at youngvoices@canadianmennonite.org

Have you ever read the entire Bible before? What are you learning as you read through it? When are you making time to read it? What are you enjoying about it? What are some of the challenges? What questions do you have? I want to know.

I’m interested in getting a discussion going during A Year of Reading Biblically because I think it will make the experience that much richer for everyone involved. And selfishly, I know there are many people in Mennonite Church Canada and beyond who are much smarter than I am, as my initial Facebook post shows. I’d like to learn from you. Hearing your thoughts, reflections and questions along the way will help me through A Year of Reading Biblically, and also shape the direction of my reflections. 

I don’t want this to be just about me, however. I want this to be about us, together, exploring what it might look like if we became more biblically literate.

“I read the Bible to understand God/Jesus/[the] Holy Spirit better and what is required of me,” one of my friends commented on Facebook. “I find comfort in the pages of the Bible. I find entertainment in the stories of the Bible. I find encouragement in the lives of the people revealed in the Bible. I find life-giving hope in the Bible.”

I’m looking forward to finding the same. How about you?

--Posted Dec. 11, 2013

Note: Aaron's Bible reading schedule is at Daily Guide for a Year of Reading Biblically: Part 1. Take the challenge and read along with him!