How to Read Scripture

I think the most important thing to remember about reading scripture is to read it.  You can’t read scripture if you don’t read it.

With that in mind, and knowing how busy everyone is these days, choose to read something you are interested in, or enjoy reading.  Don’t start with Leviticus or Summa Theologica (the latter is great for insomnia), especially if you struggle to find time to read in the first place.

When you find a section of text that speaks to you, highlight it, and perhaps even make a note to yourself why you underlined it.

If you read something that just rocks your world, then write it down.  Memorize it.  Write about it.  Discuss it with those you trust and can be vulnerable with.

Set a reasonable goal for yourself: not so little that its accomplishment is trivial, and not so much that it becomes a burden.  Be gentle with yourself, but at the same time remember what you’re reading and why: these are the ideas you build your life with.

Maybe you’re beyond all this and are rolling your eyes at the lack of scholarship I’m advocating.  After all, there are folks out there who do word studies, syntopical research, comparative research, etc.

All those things are great.  I think generally speaking the deeper and more engaged you are in any activity, the greater will be the rewards you reap.

Just remember why you started your research.  Don’t let all that analysis make you deaf to the voice that spoke to your heart in the first place.

If you spend all your days dissecting corpses, it can be hard to remember they were once human beings.

What Is Scripture?

What is scripture?  Is it the Word of God?  Written text divinely inspired by God?  Or is it the written compilation of religious traditions of peoples from around the world?

What is scripture to you?  Do you read scripture?

Shortly after graduating from college, I read Mortimer Adler’s book, How to Read a Book.  That book inspired me, not only to read the Great Books of the Western World, but of the eastern world as well and the various religious texts in particular.  I figured if they were profound enough to inspire the religions themselves and millions of people as well, then they probably have something to say to me too.

They did, and still do.

I believe scripture is that body of written work on which you build your life.  It is the “first principles” of your life, the axioms and assumptions which underlie your thoughts, words, and deeds.

Scripture may be a religious text like the Bible or the Bhagavad Gita.  It may be some work of philosophy like Plato or Aristotle.  Maybe even a work of fiction like The Lord of the Rings.  For a time I read that book, or parts of it, nearly every year.

Perhaps you disagree with me.  In fact you may feel offended by the generic nature of my definition.  But I think even an atheist will want and need a written embodiment of what she believes to be true: the fundamental axioms or principles on which she bases her actions; or a vision for what life can or should be.

And let’s face it, there are certain texts that have acquired a sacred patina even though they are secular in nature: the Magna Carta, the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution of the United States of America to name only a few.

People and scripture are the bricks and mortar we build our life’s meaning with.  Without one or the other, it’s hard to build a lasting foundation.  That being the case, what are you reading?  What are you mixing your mortar with?  How do those words become the cathedral of your mind?  How do you turn that scripture into meaningful action?