Whakapono: Big Book ~ Little Book
When we consider how we come to know about God, we often speak of the ‘big book’ and the ‘little book’. The big book is the wider cosmic reality of which we are a part. We experience God in the creation that is all around us; vast, broad and universal. But the bible sits at the heart of the Christian tradition, the particular story and truth found in our ‘little book’. But what is the scripture and how do we engage with it in our individual and communal lives? Is it a science book, a magical code book… or is it Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth? (clue = nope).
We asked Greg some questions to explore this idea:
How would you describe ‘what’ the bible is?
The bible is a library of books that describe the spiritual journey of an ancient near eastern people, with a particular focus on the Hebrew and Christian story. The collation of the 66 books represent a collectively agreed selection that is accepted as normative, and that inform our belief and practice while setting a trajectory for the ongoing evolution of our religious consciousness.
Rene Girard says that the Bible is a 'text in travail’, a narrative reflection of how the human race has tried to grapple with an understanding of the divine-human interactive that allows for the flex of the surrounding culture and its ongoing development.
How do you think the bible communicates truth to us?
The bible communicates truth through a number of traditionally accepted moral and social constructs that have helped shaped society’s legitimated traditions and practices. Truth, however, is not a fixed set of absolutes that are resistant to scrutiny or change. Truth is an unfolding of enlightened understanding and wisdom that seeks to incarnate in our lives. That wisdom was personified in Jesus who became the archetype for embodied truth.
Do we see an evolution of religious consciousness throughout the bible, and what does this mean for how we read it?
The early writings of the scripture highlight a primitive consciousness that is an authentic representation of its historical context. Ancient peoples were predominantly influenced by concepts of God that were other-worldly and somewhat removed from close human proximity. We all start out comprehending the divine in this way but the trajectory of the scriptures invite us into a journey of greater awareness and its implied intimacy. Eventually God no longer remains aloof but fully engaged in the everyday realities of life. This awareness begins to unfold a pathway of fully integrated spirituality. The mystics would describe this evolutionary consciousness as the 'new way’ of being … God with us, God in us, and God as us.
What place do you think mystical experience has in our reading of scripture?
Mysticism is the phenomenon of a unique experience of communion with God, which is evoked by insight into spiritual truths.
The scriptures provide us with a backdrop for how our ancestors have experienced God through spiritual insight and its life changing effect. Their story becomes an invitation to engage with the meta-narrative and live our faith with the same potential enthusiasm. When I say enthusiasm I am referring to its Latin meaning… ‘to be inspired or possessed by a god, be rapt, be in ecstasy."
The mystics see the scripture as more than historical record of belief systems that need to be adopted or adhered to, but rather, a meaningful interaction with the divine essence that is shaping human consciousness.
How do we avoid unhealthy, or even dangerous, readings of scripture?
Throughout history we have seen the scripture misused to promote certain doctrinal bias and cultural prejudice. At times we have seen things done in the name of scripture that have been atrocious on so many levels, whether it has been the justification of slavery, the subjugation of woman or the vindication of violence done in the name of God. The only way to carefully and honestly approach the sacredness of scripture is to read, discuss, and debate it in the company of fellow pilgrims. The delicate unfolding of truth can only be realised in a healthy interactive between those who are willing to accept each other’s differences and refrain from the disabuse that tries to project a religious arrogance on to those who are on different stages of the religious journey.