The uncongenial Bible

“I took the little scroll from the hand of the angel and ate it; it was sweet as
honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it my stomach was made bitter.”
– Revelation 10:10

Spiritual theologian Eugene Peterson:

The most frequent way we have of getting rid of the puzzling or unpleasant difficulties in the Bible is to systematize it, organizing it according to some scheme or other that summarizes “what the Bible teaches.” If we know what the Bible teaches, we don’t have to read it anymore, don’t have to enter the story and immerse ourselves in the odd and unflattering and uncongenial way in which this story develops, including so many people and circumstances that have nothing to do, we think, with us.

We are fond of saying that the Bible has all the answers. And that is certainly correct. The text of the Bible sets us in a reality that is congruent with who we are as created beings in God’s image and what we are destined for in the purposes of Christ. But the Bible also has all the questions, many of them that we would just as soon were never asked of us, and some of which we will spend the rest of our lives doing our best to dodge. Eat this book: it will be sweet as honey in your mouth; but it will also be bitter to your stomach. You can’t reduce this book to what you can handle; you can’t domesticate this book to what you are comfortable with. You can’t make it your toy poodle, trained to respond to your commands.

This book makes us participants in the world of God’s being and action; but we don’t participate on our own terms. We don’t get to make up the plot or decide what character we will be. This book has generative power; things happen to us as we let the text call forth, stimulate, rebuke, prune us. We don’t end up the same.

Eat this book, but also have a well-stocked cupboard of Alka-Seltzer and Pepto-Bismol at hand.

Eat This Book: A Conversion in the Art of Spiritual Reading (p. 66)

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