Northern Ireland evangelicalism, our predominant strain of Protestantism, has a strong feeling about the Bible. The Bible has the final authority. Some would even wish to say Sola Scriptura, that the Bible is the only influence on our doctrine and discipleship. Even though the role of Scripture is central, to imagine that outside factors of culture don't taint our reading says something of the possible naivety of that position.
Yet, in a country that reads the Bible so much we seem to understand it so little. Reading verses out of context. Reading it like it is all one book without understanding that there are different contexts, genres of writing and intentions of different editors.
We read daily verses like they are Chinese fortune cookies, looking for a hopeful wish rather than substantial truth. We read passages in daily devotions without reference to what happens before and after the verses we are studying. We use it as if it has magic powers which is more like the Islamic view of the Koran than any Judeo- Christian theology.
One of the benefits I have found in my ministry in Fitzroy has been that while preaching from The Lectionary I have had to better understand the context of passages and the editor's intention for them and the entire book. Like many in Northern Ireland I had a lazy approach to Scripture, treating it as one seamless whole rather than 66 books over hundreds of years, every book being different.
So I am excited about a new series we are doing in Fitzroy that aims to increase our Bible literacy. This series will take us through the books of the Bible and help us understand the context and purpose of the book. I am thrilled with the calibre of our contributors. They are Biblically literate and theologically articulate.
We have had our first four evenings and they were wonderfully insightful. Do not feel though that you cannot make use of this resource for the other books in this year's course. They will all be at 7.00pm in Fitzroy. It would be great to see you.
January 13 - Numbers - Graham McGeown.
February 17 - Deuteronomy - Kim Walsh
March 10, Joshua - Stephen Williams
April 7 - Judges/Ruth - Roz Stirling
May 12 - 1 & 2 Samuel - Cindy Brown
June 9 - 1 & 2 Kings - Stephen McIlwaine.