Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Eat This Book

Peterson has some thought-provoking ideas in this book. I particularly appreciate his insights on Western individualism and professionalism. Peterson quotes G.K. Chesterton who satirizes the situation in his book, Heretics, saying, "Once men sang together round a table in chorus; now one man sings alone, for the absurd reason that he can sing better. If scientific civilization goes on (which is most improbable) only one man will laugh, because he can laugh better than the rest." We do this with our spiritual lives sometimes, don't we? The youth pastor is responsible for my kids' spiritual growth... the leader of my Bible study is the one on whom I rely to do all the Bible study and then pass it on to me... the head pastor is the expert I trust to tell me what to think...

You may not go quite that far, but you probably know people who do. And it's something prevalent enough to warrant addressing it -- Since this is a pervasive way of thinking in my culture, has it crept into the way I think? Is professionalism all bad? How do we resist the ways it is unhealthy?

I think Peterson swings a bit too far on the pendulum in reaction against the ideology of professionalism, particularly as he suggests everyone can be an exegete, which to some degree may be true. But there are trained, or professional, exegetes upon whom we should rely for help in our Bible study efforts. However, Peterson is right. If we think, 'I have a job and a family and don't have time to study the Scriptures, but studying the Scriptures is the job of the pastor...' That's not a good place for us to be.

Peterson also encourages us to develop a "hermeneutic of adoration" and draws our attention to Paul Ricoeur:

Paul Ricoeur has wonderful counsel for people like us. Go ahead, he says, maintain and practice your hermeneutics of suspicion. It is important to do this. Not only important, it is necessary... But then reenter the book, the world, with what he calls 'a second naivete.' Look at the world with childlike wonder, ready to be startled into surprised delight by the profuse abundance of truth and beauty and goodness that is spilling out of the skies at every moment. Cultivate a hermeneutics of adoration -- see how large, how splendid, how magnificent life is.

Overall, I appreciate this book and hope it provides encouragement and inspiration for those wondering if personal Bible study, specifically exegesis, is possible and how to begin.


Reggie Smith said...

i like your first post here. i'm looking forward to seeing what you write about in the future.
i'm glad peterson and you both qualify the idea of the importance of personal scripture exegesis with the reality that there are people whom God has called and who have been trained specifically to preach and teach God's Word. i was just talking yesterday to a friend about that subject and wondering how, practically, that should work out. do we have too much emphasis on personal exegesis of scripture within the evangelical (especially the reformed) tradition? what kind of boundaries and allowances should we have theologically to allow our pastors to truly have a place of spiritual authority over us (more than just morally) but not allow ourselves to be blind followers of charismatic leaders? and have we perverted the idea of 'sola scriptura' and slowly come to the conviction (although never stated explicitly) that it is not only the text that is divine but also our personal interpretation of it? with all of our emphasis on the importance of 'quiet times' i wonder if we forget about training people how to study scripture and the difference between study and the quiet time.

anyway, that's a lot of questions. i'd be interested to hear what you think.

talk to you soon,


Renea McKenzie said...

Yeah, I know. Just like everything else, it's sticky, complicated. It's hard for me to know how much emphasis should be placed on study because I love to study.

I think, though, that if we're worried that Scripture has been over-emphasiszed (and I come from a Bible church), I think we're in more trouble when we over-react and camp in the other extreme and "throw the baby out with the bath water." Which, it seems, is what's happening in lots of places.

Oh well. We do what we do. That is, we do what we can with what we have and where we are. Maybe that sounds like a copout, but I think asking these kinds of questions and meandering through the mess of it all is a way of walking in truth and humility.

Thanks for the thought-provoking... um, thoughts. :)

renea mac said...

And yes, I agree with you. (Reformed) Evangelical traditions do, I think, overemphasize personal (idividualistic) Bible study/exegesis at the cost of the spiritual authority of the church as a body, including pastors.