Every time I go to the abbey lately, it seems I return to my car with a fist full of books. That “FREE BOOKS” table in the entry is still there after several weeks. Each time I see it, I’m convinced there are more books on it than the last time, despite my best efforts to clear it.
As you can imagine, this works mighty wonders for my “to read” stack.
Unrelated to that, I’m working my way through Eugene Peterson’s five “conversation” titles, and hoping one day to get to those tattered used books I keep bringing home.
But meanwhile, I’m still here, reading Eat this Book: A Conversation in the Art of Spiritual Reading. It’s been a long read. Longer than I intended. But life sometimes has a way of getting tangled up in itself. I got a little caught up one day when he gave me permission — me! — to do exegesis:
Exegesis is not in the first place a specialist activity of scholars, although we very much need these scholars working on our behalf. We are not, after all, deciphering hieroglyphics, as some would have us think. Exegesis is simply noticing and responding adequately (which is not simple!) to the demand that words make on us, that language makes on us. (p. 51)
That’s not to say, of course, that it is any reckless and mindless thing. It must be done carefully, and he takes pains to remind of this. But ultimately, we are called to participate in the text. Such permission means the world to me.
But this next part, this is what I want us to talk about. This caution — that looks more like invitation — to live into the text, not to use the text. Listen to this; it’s important:
Spiritual theology, using Scripture as text, does not present us with a moral code and tell us, “Live up to this;” nor does it set out a system of doctrine and say, “Think like this and you will live well.” The biblical way is to tell a story and in the telling invite: “Live into this — this is what it looks like to be human in this God-made and God-ruled world; this is what is involved in becoming and maturing as a human being.” We do violence to biblical revelation when we “use” it for what we can get out of it or what we think will provide color and spice to our otherwise bland lives. That always results in a kind of “decorator spirituality” — God as enhancement. Christians are not interested in that; we are after something far bigger. When we submit our lives to what we read in Scripture, we find that we are not being led to see God in our stories but our stories in God’s. God is the larger context and plot in which our stories find themselves. (pp. 44-45)
(I was going to boldface the key portions of the excerpt. And it turned out to be the whole thing. )
So. Because you guys make my heart so big when you get all wise and humble in the comments talking amongst yourselves about this stuff, please: talk amongst yourselves.
What does it look like to live into biblical revelation? How do we step back from “using” the text and participate in it instead?
I’m sitting back, waiting to hear your hearts talk.
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Another note, very unrelated: We’re having some great discussion over at Tweetspeak Poetry around David Whyte’s The Heart Aroused: Poetry and the Preservation of the Soul. I’ll have a new post up on Wednesday morning and I invite you to join in. And even better, starting April 4 we’ll be starting a brand new book club at Tweetspeak, discussing L.L. Barkat’s Rumors of Water. It’s a book on creativity and writing, but you will enjoy it immensely even as a non-writer.
Public Service Announcements concluded. Citizens, carry on.