Back to the Bible?
Well, it’s been a whirlwind couple of weeks of travel and holidays back in British Colombia which has, obviously, meant less time for writing here. I plan on posting a bit more in the coming weeks, but things will likely remain a bit slower than usual over the next little while as I try to get caught up and settle back into a regular routine. I am also planning on tackling the intimidating stack of unopened/half-read books that I have accumulated over the last year or so. I spent much less time reading than usual during the last year as I stepped into a new job, and I am beginning to think this needs to change. I plan on reading more and, perhaps, writing a bit less over the rest of the summer.
So much for the update/explanation/quick look ahead.
On another note, the last few days of my time in BC last week was spent at my first Mennonite Church Canada National Assembly in Vancouver. It was very interesting for me to compare and contrast this conference with my previous experiences at Mennonite Brethren Conferences. There were many similarities and, of course, differences too. Mennonite Church Canada is, perhaps, afflicted with more of the kinds of challenges facing mainline denominations across North American than their Mennonite Brethren cousins—challenges like how ought declining giving, declining church attendance, problems around hot-button issues like human sexuality, religious pluralism, and other thorny controversies arising out of differences in biblical interpretation be addressed? Indeed, the theme for the conference was “Dusting off the Bible for the 21st Century” and the plenary lectures and workshops throughout all dealt with some aspect of another of if/how/why we ought to read our Bibles for the love of God and for the life of the church.
I won’t attempt anything like a comprehensive report or response here. I thought I would simply throw up a few of the quotes I jotted down during one of the excellent plenary addresses by professor Thomas Yoder Neufeld (outgoing CMU president Gerald Gerbrandt also had a very engaging and stimulating address, but for some reason—perhaps the breathless pace of the lecture!—my notes from this lecture are barely legible!). Hopefully these will give you a bit of a sense of the flavour of the conference and the nature of some of the issues Mennonite Church Canada (and others, no doubt) are processing/wrestling with these days:
We are in our own time of crisis… We struggle with a loss of confidence in the role of the Bible in the church.
Without the Bible, people lose their memory, identity, and vision. We head out into the world not knowing where home is or how to get back.
The Bible is one huge, messy archive of God’s ongoing interactions with people—and that’s what makes it such a profound treasure.
We should never use the Bible as a “chain-cutter” by which to break open the chains of peace by which Christ has fettered us to one another.
To dust off the Bible is to play with fire.
There are times when we need the Bible to destabilize us—not to settle an argument but to start one.
Re: the Bible as “destabilizer”:
This is Scripture truly coming to us as the stranger. Such a Bible is not well-suited to serving as a manual by which to solve problems. But there is no way that the cross would have ever been seen as good news nor is there any way that the Gentiles would ever have been welcomed if the first Christians treated the Bible as a manual. The New Testament is a “non-manual” use of the Old Testament.
Re: the Bible as a “rock”:
Sometimes we use the Bible as a rock, certainly, and then throw these rocks at each other. Our Bibles may not have dust on them, but they certainly have blood.
Re: how Anabaptists have used and continue to use Scripture:
Many Anabaptists are guilty of being “practical Marcionites.” We think Paul was a Lutheran and Jesus was a Mennonite… and we don’t read the book of Revelation at all.
Re: getting the order right:
It is not our trust in the Bible that matters, ultimately, but the God to whom it points.
We don’t trust God because we trust in the Bible; we trust the Bible because we trust God.