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thoughts on scripture: how do we read the scriptures?


What is the content of the Scriptures, or more precisely, what kind of book(s) are the Scriptures? Contrary to popular demand, it is not a magazine, it is not a history textbook, it is not science textbook, it is not a manual for successful entrepreneurship, and it is not a systematic theology. It is the story of God and his people. The story is told through unashamedly human stories, poetry and song, prophecy, genealogies, prayers and tears, stories of angels and miracles, letters, philosophical reflections, and crazy stories about dragons and bowls of wrath and a lake of fire. The nature of stories is that they are participatory. We are drawn into the story as we become a pat of it, it becomes a part of us.

Textbooks have an air of objectivity in them (whether or not this is true is another story). The danger of reading Scripture as a textbook is applying to Scripture the label of objectivity. Stories are not objective, they are subjective. On the dangers of objectifying Scripture, Søren Kierkegaard said:

“Faith does not result simply from a scientific inquiry; it does not come directly at all. On the contrary, in this objectivity one tends to lose that infinite personal interestedness in passion which is the condition of faith . . . . Rather is it the case that in this voluminous knowledge, this certainty that lurks at the door of faith and threatens to devour it, he is in so dangerous a situation that he will need to put forth much effort in great fear and trembling, lest he fall a victim to the temptation to confuse knowledge with faith. While faith has hitherto had a profitable schoolmaster in the existing uncertainty, it would have in the new certainty its most dangerous enemy. For if passion is eliminated, faith no longer exists, and certainty and passion do not go together” (Concluding Unscientific Postscript, p. 30)

An objective reading of Scripture is a disinterested reading where faith ends up being excluded. Subjectivity does not mean relativism, where everything goes. Subjectivity does not mean a lack of truth. It means that we are personally invested in the story and that God is invested in us.


About david b. clark

a husband and father || a student of philosophy, theology, history, literature, music, art, computer science


One thought on “thoughts on scripture: how do we read the scriptures?

  1. Such a timely reminder for me- Kierkegaard does have a way of awakening the soul doesn’t he?!? Thank you sir!

    Posted by teleia philia | 11 January, 2008, 8:40 pm

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