Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Swimming in a Vast Ocean, by Eugene Peterson

Every expectation that we bring to this book (the Bible) is inadequate or mistaken. This is a text that reveals the sovereign God in being and action. It does not flatter us, it does not seek to please us. We enter this text to meet God as he reveals himself, not to look for truth or history or morals that we can use for ourselves.... we do not read the Bible in order to find out how to get God into our lives, get him to participate in our lives. That's getting it backward.

As we cultivate a participatory mind-set in relation to our Bibles, we need a complete renovation of our imaginations. We are accustomed to thinking of the biblical world as smaller than the secular world. Tell-tale phrases gives us away. We talk of "making the Bible relevant to the world," as if the world is the fundamental reality and the Bible something that is going to help it or fix it. We talk of "fitting the Bible into our lives" or "making room in our day for the Bible," as if the Bible is something that we can add on to or squeeze into our already full lives.

As we personally participate in the Scripture-revealed world of the emphatically personal God, we not only have to be willing to accept the strangeness of this world- that it doesn't fit our preconceptions or tastes- but also the staggering largeness of it. We find ourselves in a truly expanding universe that exceeds anything we learned in our geography or astronomy books.

Our imaginations have to be revamped to take in this large, immense world of God's revelation in contrast to the small, cramped world of human "figuring out." We learn to live, imagine, believe, love, converse in this immense and richly organic and detailed world to which we are given access by our Old and New Testaments. "Biblical" does not mean cobbling texts together to prove or substantiate some dogma or practice that we have landed on. Rather, it signals an opening up into what "no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, [but] what God... has revealed to us through the spirit" (1 Cor 2:9-10).

What we must never be encouraged to do, although all of us are guilty of it over and over, is to force Scripture to fit our experience. Our experience is too small; it's like trying to put the ocean into a thimble. What we want is to fit into the world revealed by Scripture, to swim in this vast ocean.

What we are after is first noticing and then participating in the way the large world of the Bible absorbs the much smaller world of our science and economics and politics that provides the so-called worldview in which we are used to working out our daily concerns.

Eat This Book, pp. 67-8

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