N.T. Wright on ‘The Whole Sweep of Scripture’

“Until we wrestle with Scripture like that we are not really honoring it. If this is the book God meant us to have by the Spirit, then it is important we actually take that seriously instead of just snipping it down to make it digestible; like somebody with a huge banquet in front of them who insists on going to the back room and just making a peanut butter sandwich instead.” N.T. Wright

Below is a really great video from ‘The Work of the People’ with N.T. Wright on how to read the Bible. In it he touches on a problem that I take to be rather rampant in North American Christianity – that of picking and choosing verses here and there to the neglect of the whole story.

The holes in North American hermeneutics are revealed in the pursuit of agendas (whether consciously or unconsciously) of making the Bible merely into a source of raw data and proof texts for personal systematic theologies and apologetics (like the HCSB Apologetics Study Bible), a ‘life application’ instruction book (a la the Life Application Study Bible), or a self-help manual (have you seen the Joel Osteen Hope for Today or Joyce Meyer Everyday Life Bibles?). [Yes, I realize I probably just picked on some people’s favorite ‘study helps’ in this paragraph.]

Americans love control and I personally believe these (again, whether consciously or unconsciously) are ways that Scripture is held a bay and at a safe distance … one verse at a time.

Instead Wright encourages us to get swept up in the ‘whole sweep of Scripture’ and compares reading the Bible to listening to a symphony. One of the points of course is that one doesn’t merely listen to a symphony ‘one note at a time’ – one necessarily listens to and experiences the whole thing. To do otherwise simply doesn’t make sense and is to miss the point of the symphony itself. And it also occurs to me that the thought of a ‘note of the day’ devotional is rather odd; its inconceivable that one would think they can get swept up in the symphony in this way. Yet ‘verse of the day’ devotionals seem to be the steady diet of a great many North American Christians.  Are we settling for peanut butter sandwiches when there is a banquet available?

I say let’s put away the daily verse approach and really ‘press our noses against the window’ of Scripture.

The Whole Sweep Of Scripture from The Work Of The People on Vimeo.

1 thought on “N.T. Wright on ‘The Whole Sweep of Scripture’

  1. I agree whole-heartedly. I also agree with Wright’s statements towards the end of the video concerning how we should orient our minds and hearts when we do only read a short amount of verses, and I do believe we can train ourselves to read the Bible in that way using “reading plans.” Such as reading a book of the Bible each week. We read the selected portion, absorb, pray and meditate on it, and as each day goes by we start tying it all together. I do agree, however, that this is not the way we have been taught to read. We are taught to read a set of selected verses and find the “gold” hidden in there, or the “what God has to show you through those verses.” Which, is what you and N.T Wright are responding to (and me as well). Because it does make for very shallow reading I believe.

    A long time ago, I found that way of reading (the latter I mentioned) to be frustrating, unfulfilling, and discouraging. A lot more could be said on that, but I won’t. In short, with out the guidance of “wise” men in the church I began to develop the style of reading Wright speaks of in the video. Not that I didn’t ask, but the advice I was given was only advice that promoted what caused me frustration and discouragement. Hence, I never have found a mentor within the churches I have been at because for one Baptist churches don’t seem to disciple/mentor at all or train men and women how, and just like with reading the Bible most of the advice given from the men is the very thing I find frustration with and find lacking.

    I do believe, however, that there are those who write “daily devotionals” of set verses who do a good job of writing with the whole book and Bible in mind. It is rare of course to find that, but I do believe there are some out there.

    Anyway, great post bro 🙂

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