I have been reading the books pictured above. One of these books is not like the other one. One of these books is about the other one and it has given me a fantastic and personal sort of release about the way I read the Bible. (Dramatic pause – if you want to. Depends on how much drama you like).
I like Nick Page. I enjoy his Podcast Mid Faith Crisis which he presents with Joe Davis. HOH really liked his book “Dark Night of the Shed” (a sort of Christian Male mid-life crisis book) I think this may be one of his most important books.
I was brought up in a very traditional Bible-believing family and I am grateful for it. I was brought up on Bible stories and taught what they meant. I listened to preachers take Bible verses apart and apply them to my life. I was also taught that they were literally true. The first thing that ever gave me pause was when a workmate asked what the possibility was that Noah had nipped up to Antarctica to make sure that he got a couple of Emperor Penguins. I didn’t say so but I thought he had a point. Then there were two different accounts of Creation. I didn’t ever really have any kind of problem with the idea of God creating the world (for which I’m sure he is eternally grateful) because if he is God I’m sure he can. It just didn’t ever really look to me like he did it quite how I had been taught. And so, my belief system became quite fuzzy (secretly so) but it didn’t really affect my faith in God, my need of a saviour and my amazement at Grace so, if I am struggling with the idea of Jonah in a whale, it never really bothered me because I was always so astonished at the lengths God went to, to forgive, forget and give another chance to the people of Ninevah (and Jonah too when he had a stonking sulk because he felt hard done to – I always liked him).
Now, here is a book that talks about the Bible being God-breathed and that we are meant to inhale it. To inhale the very essence of God through its pages even though a good proportion of it may not be well – a bit boring – try as I might, I have never been captivated by the measurements of the Temple. He talks about it being written by Committee rather than God moving the pen in someone’s hand. He talks about some of the history being a bit fuzzy – especially around the Patriarchs and Prophets – maybe even that there were several Isaiahs. And I’m still not bothered because I know that God is all over it like a rash and that it is stamped through with how he feels about me.
I have also been moved by what he has said about reading the Bible. Well for a start he says that for most of the Bible’s life, you couldn’t read it because most people couldn’t read and even if you could, you probably couldn’t afford access to it. So people would listen to it, tell tales from it and chew it over. So, if it’s better for you to listen to the Bible than read it, you join with a long illustrious line of men sitting at the city gates, people on hillsides, children in newly formed Sunday schools, plantation workers and on and on from there. If it works better for you, you don’t need to feel that reading is “better”.
Also, Page doesn’t believe that God is bothered about what version you read. NIV, King James, American Standard – you know lots of others. Which brings me to me. (You know in the end that it’s always about me.) For the past twelve months, I have read only The Message. I have been taught that it is only a paraphrase and I always assumed that this was a stopgap, while I was a bit dodgy but, I have to tell you that no other version has challenged or comforted me like this one. For instance, for two weeks, I have been reading the section of Matthew after the Sermon on the Mount and it has been brilliant.
Matthew 6 25-26 “If you decide for God, living a life of God-worship, it follows that you don’t fuss about what’s on the table at mealtimes or whether the clothes in your closet are in fashion. There is far more to your life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body. Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God. And you count far more to him than birds.
I have been chewing over that for ages. I was speaking to HOH and saying how much I was enjoying The Message and would be sad to leave it for a more “accepted” version. He asked, “So why would you?”
So don’t shout at me. I just wanted to share where I am and it is a good thing. Let me just leave you with a quote from Nick Page’s book. Which I am definitely recommending. Have a good week.
“The Bible is an invitation. The Bible is a call. The breath of God lifts its pages; they rise and fall with his breathing.
So open the book. Inhale the breath of God. Become the story.”