If you have never read Eugene Peterson’s work, you are in for a soulful treat. His translation of the original biblical manuscripts yielded his work The Message. And, in his even-handed, down-to-earth voice, familiar (or even unfamiliar) parts of scripture are brought to life in new ways. He has spent serious amounts of time pouring over the words, stories, and themes of scripture, and, at the end of it all, his advice to us on the bible is to “eat this book”. Even this phrase is down-to-earth and not overly religious-sounding. His book Eat this Book is one of the best books I’ve ever read about “reading” the bible.
This is all just a preface to a quote I ran across today from the book that touched on the topic of maturity, a topic I’ve been studying over the last several months. He wrote:
“Spiritual theology, using scripture as text, does not present us with a moral code and tell us to ‘Live up to this”; nor does it set out a system of doctrine and say ‘Think like this and you will live well'”
Now, I don’t know about you, but in my lifetime I have certainly received the message from religious people and groups that reading the bible as a moral guide is fitting, and it is right in line with the message that living rightly in the world consists largely of an externally-evident high moral standard. It makes sense that he would dismiss this as false, but I find it interesting that he also dismisses biblical reading as a guide for thinking because the bible speaks of transformation by the renewal of the mind. So, what then does he propose? He says:
“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.'” (pp.43-44)
I love this. I love this invitation, too, to dig into scripture as whole persons, not just with our minds, bodies, spirits, or souls. Eat this book — Taste it, enter into it, inhabit it, think about it, play with it, see it, and learn it. We are invited to live into the message of the bible, to have faith and embrace it in spite of fear.