Eren at The Vintage Chica started us on this fun week of celebrating our favorite books by genre. Due to some Hurricane Earl challenges, “Freedom Friday” is on Saturday. Today Eren invites us to name “any book you think is worth mentioning.” I almost don’t want to do this because it’s so expected for a pastor to do, but I am going to go with the glaringly obvious: what we Christians call The Holy Bible.
~~~ BUT WAIT! ~~~
I’m not going to go all holier-than-thou or pastor-nerdy on you! The Holy Bible has been such a perpetual best-seller for a reason, and perhaps the reason is more compelling than the comfort the Bible gives us by looking so good on our bookshelves. I want to share with you some books that have shown me the same old Bible in a whole new way!
Making Friends with the Bible (Elouise Renich Fraser, Louis A. Kilgore) was co-authored by my seminary theology professor. Her approach to theology and to the Bible are similar: when we forget (or refuse) to bring our own selves authentically and openly to Bible study or theology, we keep at arm’s length the God-power at work in the biblical story, the Christian tradition and our own stories.
I have used this book in several Bible studies as an intro unit. Too often, people are embarrassed by their lack of “Bible knowledge” so they want the pastor to “do a Bible study for us.” This book invites each of us to stop being afraid of the Bible, or intimidated by it, and stop using the Bible for our own purposes. Instead, this book invites us to go beyond knowing about the Bible and let ourselves make friends with the Bible. Her analysis of friendship is a jewel in itself and was inspired, at least in part, by writing the book as a team.
I will write another long post sometime about how my life radically changed in a Systematic Theology class. For now, I would say that this book is worth the couple of dollars it would cost to buy a copy used from Amazon. [Edit: I said that because it’s out of print, not because it’s only worth buying on the cheap!]
Reading the Bible Again for the First Time: Taking the Bible Seriously, but not Literally (Marcus J. Borg) The sub-title says it well. Anything by Marcus Borg will be an eye-opener.
Why Christianity Must Change or Die: A Bishop Speaks to Believers in Exile. (John Shelby Spong) Not strictly about the Bible, but this book has something to say to anyone who once was captivated by Jesus &/or the Bible and found church &/or traditional Christianity to be life-sucking. They don’t mean to be that way, I am convinced! Spong is your patron saint if you are an exiled Christian.
The Origin of Satan: How Christians Demonized Jews, Pagans, and Heretics (Elaine Pagels) or check out Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas or Adam, Eve, and the Serpent: Sex and Politics in Early Christianity. Anything by Pagels is good reading.
And for the very brave and open-minded: Illegitimacy of Jesus: A Feminist Theological Interpretation of the Infancy Narratives (Jane Schaberg) and here is a link to the twentieth anniversary edition. Though her scholarship was impeccable, she was vilified for coming to a — understatement alert! –different conclusion about the nature of Jesus’ origins. She makes a good case that her version takes more seriously the power of God to redeem the world — and how!
I’ve pretty clearly crossed into pastor-nerdy territory, but I hope I didn’t veer anywhere close to holier-than-thou world. I love the Bible, it is true. I just don’t love how it’s been used and abused and, sadly, been cast aside as irrelevant for so many spiritual people. It’s the ultimate love story pointing to something even greater than itself — the power of Love to change everything.