I'm once again enjoying 12StoneChurch® this weekend, teaching New Testament for their biblical studies program in cooperation with IWU. It's a cocktail of delight, not only with the familiar faces of students now in their fourth course, but with comrades like Robin Ritchie, Chris Huff, Dave Ward, Steve Lennox, and Chris Bounds.
As a Bible person, I've thought a lot about what I'm doing when I teach Bible and frequently ask myself what I'm supposed to do. On the one thing, I think I know some stuff. I have this degree that says I do. But many voices wonder if the stuff I know is helpful or useful.
I believe truth is a legitimate pursuit for its own sake. But from the standpoint of priority--what should a teacher teach in a certain context--some truths are more important or more useful than others in certain situations. Indeed, some truths can be counter-productive.
Believe it or not, this is also true about the Bible. In particular, the path to historical understanding is tricky. It starts with, "I want to know more about the Bible." It becomes, "I want to know what it really meant." But the person who starts this path usually doesn't know where this path leads. Some end up as history-deniers (fundamentalists). Others end up denying the importance of history (post-liberals). Others end up with a certain antiquarianism that locks up the Bible in the past.
This has long been my struggle. In conversation with Dave Ward yesterday and in recent reflection, I think I finally have a formula for my approach to teaching Bible in a Christian context:
1. There are two functions of Scripture - formation and information. Formation is by far the more important, even though both are valid.
2. God meets, forms, and informs us where we are. The goal is not to lead someone to some place where they can meet God. God always meets us here and now, wherever we are.
3. I have some thoughts about the Bible. I'm a Biblehead. Some of those thoughts are probably right. Some of them are probably wrong. God meets me where I'm at in my understanding, right or wrong.
4. As a Bible teacher, I teach some of the stuff I think I know, about what the Bible really meant, as well as some of the things other people have thought about the Bible. The goal, though, is not to take students to a place where they can meet God--God meets us everywhere on the journey.
5. God met the people of the Bible in history, and I can gain from learning about that. God meets us now, with whatever understanding we have, right or wrong, and forms us to be more like him.