A few weeks ago, in a discussion thread over here, folknotions asked the question (seconded by Tim Baer): “What do radical anabaptists believe about the Bible?”. I’ve been pondering this question for a few weeks and I haven’t come up with anything definitive, but I do have a few thoughts to share. It just so happens that DenverS posted a piece two weeks ago that very much speaks to this question as well. I’d love to hear what others of you (especially women) think as well. We’ve already got a quite active The Bible so if you add your piece to that category, we could even have ourselves a “YAR on the Bible” series.
My awareness of how I read the bible has been strongly shaped by my experience of British Anabaptism through working Anabaptist Network. The second of the Anabaptist Network’s seven core convictions is:
Jesus is the focal point of God’s revelation. We are committed to a Jesus-centred approach to the Bible, and to the community of faith as the primary context in which we read the Bible and discern and apply its implications for discipleship.(read more from the AN)
Naming an Anabaptist value as a "Jesus-centred approach to the bible" helped me to understand some distinctive of my own Mennonite tradition that I had always taken for granted. I gradually came to understand that many traditions claim to read the bible in a flat way with all passages seen with the same weight. This is not the case for me. The core of Jesus message is a vision for shalom liberation for all of us. Some parts of the bible communicate, at least on the surface, a contradictory vision. For example,
when I read the story of Ehud I see the story of an exciting adventure story told ’round the camp fire down through the generations by the Jewish people. It comes out of the life of a people struggling for justice and liberation. But its a way of living out that struggle that is very from the vision of Jesus of loving your enemy and radical, cheek-turning nonviolence.
The community of faith as the primary context for reading the bible is also a central part of how I approach the Bible. I don’t find it useful to sit in the corner and open the bible at random and read it. I’m much more drawn to reading the Bible in a group or discussing it on a blog (like YAR) or reading a theologian who unpacks the social and historical context of the text.
And finally, the gospel of Jesus as a source for discipleship in our lives. The bible is not primarily a source for doctrine or a set of beliefs for us to ascribe to. Its a story in which we are all actors, not passive recipients. Jesus lays out a way of being in and relating to all of creation rooted in redemption, not just of our souls, but of our lives, our communities and our empires. The Bible is the story of God coming along side humanity in that struggle. It is a story that we are all invited to join.