I think having a reading plan is important. In fact, John Wesley’s reading plan is one I recommend to people all the time. There are also a lot of good read through the Bible plans available. I know I have tried several reading plans and will continue to explore reading plans. However, as I have been studying what it means to read the Bible as Scripture I have been convicted that who you open the Bible with is as important as how often you open the Bible.
My Bible reading is almost exclusively done in isolation, which is not good. We need to read together, whenever we gather, as the body of Christ. The problem with that though is that most of those gatherings include very few non-believers. I think their voice is important. Believers rightly profess that the Bible is “the word of God.” The problem for most of us is that we rarely open that word with the right people. When was the last time you sat down to read and discuss the Bible with a non-believer? Most Bible studies are composed of believers and use a curriculum designed to elicit the “right” answer. There is no room for the honest inquiry and dialogue we had before we believed. Consider these points made by Thomas Merton1:
- once a non-believer works up enough interest in the book to take it seriously, they are not afraid to fight it (like Abraham, Moses, Jeremiah and others respectfully fought the “word of God” in the Hebrew Scriptures)
- they are not held back by feelings of guilt (I know I should …, but …)
- they do not hesitate to admit that the Bible seems ambiguous at points
- they make no bones about doubting that it is the word of God (honest disagreement)
- they haven’t developed “reverent manners” toward the book yet that keep them from asking questions
- they can still discover the incredible
In short, I think the non-believer hasn’t lost their ability to imaginatively interact with scripture. So, this is my challenge this year – read the Bible with non-believers. I’m not sure how I’m going to do that, other than to ask some of my non-believing friends if they will join me weekly for a cup of coffee and reading the Bible. Who will you open the Bible with this year?
1. Merton, Thomas. Opening the Bible, 37-38.