The Way Christians Read the Bible Has Big Implications

2021 was a year of whiplash, of head fakes. We thought it would be a return to normal, to the way we lived before the pandemic and before our politics became completely insane. But over the second half of this past year, i think we've discovered that in many ways 2020 was the new normal. Covid is not going away. Neither is reality denial. We have to learn to live with both.

Unconventional times call for a creative response and this episode is an example of trying to think deeply about our epistemic crisis. I talk with Michael McDonald who is part of something called the Bible Project. His official title is Chief Global Focus and Strategic Relationships Officer. I’m not aware of many other institutions like this one. It’s based in Portland and for the last couple years has been attempting to re-orient the way that Christians in America and around the world read and interpret their sacred text, the Bible. 

Why does this matter? And what relevance does it have for anyone who’s not a Christian or for politics or culture? I expect that question would loom especially large for anyone who doesn’t come from the world of conservative evangelicalism. 

Here is why I think it’s important. I come from that world of evangelicalism in which the Bible functions as a sort of Rosetta Stone for all of life. It’s not simply important or sacred. It’s central. This is the case for tens of millions of Americans, maybe into the hundreds of millions. 

The Bible project is not seeking to displace or discard or degrade the importance of the Christian scriptures. But the founders of the project do have a critique of how modern Christians read and interpret the Bible, because they say the way this is done now is not actually faithful to the way Christianity historically has done it. 

In short, they are seeking to guide Christians into a high view of scripture that respects its form as a piece of literature that is situated on a particular context and is intended to steer its reader: toward wisdom, and away from a simplistic and reductionist view that seeks easy answers and lowers the need for actual faith. 

This has big implications for American public life. It is a long term project. I find it fascinating. I hope you do too. 

I hope that you have a great Christmas and a Happy New year.

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