Throughout my theological training, I’ve always loved studying hermeneutics, the “art and science of biblical interpretation.” One reason I’ve really enjoyed this topic is because as I’ve taken numerous graduate level courses, both in seminary and in a graduate university, I’ve come to understand that the subject is far more complicated than the typical “just me and my Bible” approach that many people have. Yet the complexity hasn’t discouraged my own reading of Scripture; if anything, understanding the both the challenges and the different approaches has made reading Scripture far more powerful and engaging.
When we talk about reading, interpreting, and applying Holy Scripture, we can approach it through a variety of different views, such as the theological interpretation of Scripture (TIS) model, the biblical-theological model(s), canonical criticism, or Christological and Christotelic hermeneutics. And this is just scratching the surface of available models.
Now you might be a bit overwhelmed to know there are so many ways in which people read the Bible. Don’t worry about that right now. Just acknowledge it as a reality and let’s move on to my point…
My point is that there are a number of scholarly approaches that are filtered into local churches, primarily because preachers/pastors/leaders tend to gravitate toward approaches and, in their teaching/preaching, give the congregation an example to follow. The way that we approach Scripture, with the goals we have in our reading, are also shaped by what we expect to happen when we read the Bible, right?
In the Vineyard, we talk a lot about approaching Scripture through the spiritual formative practice of Lectio Divina. This practice includes reading Scripture and is framed in a way that assumes that reading Scripture can be done in a conversational prayer way. Lector Divina includes four steps:
I love Lectio Divina. I love that it encourages us to read Scripture devotionally as well as pushes back against the assumption that the only way to approach the Bible, the only beneficial way to read Scripture, is through a historical-grammatical approach to the Bible. Evangelicals place such a strong emphasis on the authorial intent of the passage in question that we’re often left with the impression that it’s all that matters. So I’m very thankful for Lectio Divina and have practiced it regularly for years.
So I’m a fan. And I see it’s value.
But for a moment I’d like to suggest that what’s really helped me as I read Scripture is to do my best to read it in a way that is both scholarly, devotional, and conversational. Or, to flesh those ideas out, I read Scripture as an academic discipline that takes seriously the historical, sociological, and rhetorical aspects of the understanding the text and place value on the original languages. I also read Scripture as a way to grow in my personal relationship with Jesus, which has implications in my corporate relationship with the Church. And I read Scripture as a “charismatic” in that I believe the Holy Spirit can speak to me while I’m reading the Bible in a way that is outside the Bible but not removed from the Bible.
So we need Lectio Divina, just as we need the other models. Some are more common and others are, perhaps, less popular. I often find myself telling people who gravitate toward the more academic approach to begin setting aside time for Lectio Divina and the people who are more “devotionally” inclined to pick up a good exegetical commentary and feast. After all, these are both important. But I also read Scripture with an awareness that has really impacted my own spiritual formation:
I like to read the Scriptures with an awareness of the Blessed Trinity… Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
I think I’ve become more aware of this as I’ve been using the Jesus-Centered Bible (NLT). Reading Scripture in light of Jesus is really helpful (check out How to Read the Bible through the Jesus Lens), not to mention it’s the way that the Apostles often approached the Old Testament. But I also read the Bible with the knowledge of God as Father, the covenant-keeping sovereign Father who faithfully loves us beyond our wildest dreams. And I read Scripture aware of the Spirit’s presence, guidance, and ability to highlight biblical truths that need to be applied to my head, heart, and hands, which fascinate my spiritual formation in the helpful grid of knowing, being, and doing.
So as you read Scripture, I encourage you to both read with a desire to understand its original meaning, as a way to grow closer to the Lord, and with your ears and heart open to what the Holy might also speak. And, wonder of all wonders, read Scripture in light of the Blessed Trinity, the presence of Father, Son, and Spirit with us all.