Thursday, July 27, 2006
Ancient words, ever true, changing me and changing you.”
By Martyn Minns, Rector, Truro Church, Fairfax, VA
I am sure we all have had the experience of a particular song or piece of music capturing our imaginations, and then seeming as if it were on constant replay-mode in our minds. We sang one such song last week, and I have been singing it ever since: “Ancient words, ever true, changing me and changing you.”
It is a beautiful song written by Lynn DeShazo, a Christian songwriter from Birmingham, Alabama. This song reminds us of the amazing gift of the Scriptures: “Holy Words of our faith handed down to this age, came to us through sacrifice; O heed the faithful words of Christ.” The Scriptures are a great gift.
But, how are we to read them so as to avoid the problems where people twist Scripture to fit their own biases and prejudices? Also, how do we avoid the dangers of thoughtless literalism that leads people to use the Bible to support the inhumane practices of slavery and the ongoing subjugation of women?
Let me suggest a few principles that have helped me use these Ancient Words to guide my life.
1. Prayerful humility: It is God’s Book inspired by God’s Spirit. If we are to hear God speak, we need to pray before we read.
2. Context: The Bible is written to real people in real history. While there are many timeless truths contained within its pages, we do well to understand the original setting.
3. Literary styles: Some portions of the Bible are recorded history, while others are poems, and still others are wise sayings—all true but we need to recognize the various styles and read them differently.
4. Big picture: It’s easy to focus on a few favorite verses, but we need to understand them within the meta-narrative (the overarching story) of the Bible.
5. Find yourself in the story: The Bible is not a book to be held at arm’s length, but one that is designed to dig deep into the recesses of our hearts and minds.
Ancient Words ever true, changing me and changing you!