Too much Bible?!
A provocative title for this post, I know, but it’s a thought I get from a comment that Garry Williams makes early on in his very fine book His Love Endures For Ever: Reflections on the Love of God (IVP, 2015). Garry notes that we will live in an age in which we are deluged with information, and then says:
‘For the Christian the deluge can include Bible information. We may have woeful gaps in our Bible knowledge, but at the same time Christians in church cultures focused on expository preaching receive a lot of Bible teaching. Conscientious Christians might hear two passages preached on a Sunday, another passage at a midweek meeting [or insert whatever your church does with the Bible midweek] and then might study seven more in their own daily readings. They may hear still more texts expounded if they listen online or download sermons and talks. That is a lot of Bible, and it can foster an unreflective approach to Scripture. No sooner have I listened to one passage expounded than my attention is called to another, and the plates soon fall to the ground because there are too many spinning at once.’ (pp.15-16)
Garry goes on to say that this is a potential downside of a very good thing: lots of Bible preaching/teaching and lots of access to it for Christians. But I think he has put his finger on something important which is not often noticed in our churches. My own experience of reading Garry’s book is a case in point. At the end of every chapter, each on a different aspect of the love of God, he wisely includes a short meditation with questions and a prayer. He urges the reader not to rush over these. I found it very hard not to do that. I wanted to jump on to the next chapter, to gain a new insight into God’s love from another part of Scripture, both for my own learning and (frankly) to have something impressive-sounding to drop into future conversations and teaching. (I hope, for my own selfish sake, that plenty of other readers would find the same difficulty.)
In this aspect of our lives we have probably been more deeply shaped and trained by the distracted and distracting culture of our day than we realise. If I’m going to help any other believers around me let any parts of God’s word sink deep into them rather than simply letting lots of God’s word just wet our skin, I’ve got to be fighting against this cultural habit in myself.
Quite a lot may be at stake here. It’s often when we do what Garry recommends that we come to experience in our inner being the truth that God is at work in and through his Word in the power of the Spirit. If we don’t encourage ourselves and others to give time and space for that to happen before consuming the next slice of Bible-learning, we may unwittingly be raising believers who have been taught to believe and repeat that God’s word is powerful but who below the surface aren’t quite convinced because they rarely allow themselves (or are allowed) space to experience it in their souls.