Dance with the Bible, and let the Holy Spirit out
Mennonite Church Canada holds 2012 AssemblyBy Deborah Froese Mennonite Church Canada
VANCOUVER, B.C. — Dance with the Bible? Rub the dust off its cover to let the Holy Spirit out?
At first glance, these ideas may seem audacious or even blasphemous, but scholar, educator and author Tom Yoder Neufeld provoked thought by integrating them into his plenary sessions July 14-15 at Mennonite Church Canada’s Assembly 2012, “Dusting Off the Bible for the 21st Century.”
He said we must renew our commitment to studying Scripture to re-establish ourselves as people of God.
But the Bible is not easily read or interpreted. It’s a “huge, messy archive of God’s ongoing relationship with people… . The Bible stirs things up. It breaks up the hard-packed ground of entrenched power and control,” said Yoder Neufeld, professor of religious studies and peace and conflict studies at Conrad Grebel University College in Waterloo, Ont.
“We have a tendency to shape the Bible to fit our cherished perceptions,” Yoder Neufeld said, and doing so places us in danger of settling for less than the full depth, width, length and fullness of God. “We need the Bible to constantly call into question the way we’ve tailored things.”
Yoder Neufeld entreated delegates to wrestle together over the Bible.
“The Bible is not a manual to solve some sort of problem — even though that’s the way we want to look at it,” he said. He noted that if the Bible had been treated like a manual in the days of the early church, Gentiles would not have been welcomed into her folds, and no one would have recognized the Messiah.
The scribes who first wrote down stories of the Old and then the New Testaments did not know they were creating the Bible, Yoder Neufeld said, but that didn’t devalue it. Instead, their commitment demonstrated the ongoing nature of God’s story with God’s people.
The Bible is witness to the entrusting of God’s word to humankind with all of their foibles and weaknesses, he said.
“We might wish for something less human and more manual-like,” he said, but that is not the way the Bible works. The truth lies with no one person. It takes a community to discern.
Comment on the article Dance with the Bible, and let the Holy Spirit out
Please keep comments civil. MWR editors reserve the right to remove any comment. When posting a comment, you agree to the MWR Comments Policy. Name and comment will be posted; commenters are strongly encouraged to give their full name. Email address is for follow-up only and will not be made public.