While I have been a student of the Bible for over forty years and, actually, not a casual but a serious one since the week after my conversion on July 10, 1978 when the guys that lead me to the Lord bought me a New American Standard Bible from a Boise, Idaho Bible Book Store, I am, still, always learning and listening (hopefully better and hopefully well). However, if I already know what the Bible should and ought to say, why read it at all? If I already know what each book, Gospel, Letter, and text is supposed to say BEFORE I read them, the Bible, a Bible book, a chapter, a text cannot teach me anything "new" nor challenge me afresh. These, then, only become weapons to use against those that don’t think or conform to my way of thinking or political agenda.
The Bible (or depending on who is reading it and who is making this assumption), then, is always going to preach to me a conservative or progressive lesson I already know; it is always going to teach me the same old message or same enlightened message; it will always point me toward voting Republican or Democrat at the ballot box; it will always teach me to accept or hate certain others; it will always move me to certain places and not to others; it will always teach me what social location is best for success, safety, and prosperity.
While there is value in hermeneutic, confessional, and theological centers and consistency (I certainly have them–well, I sure hope I do), there is also value, as someone has blogged, “just allowing the Bible to be strange and unsettling.” God’s word should always be challenging my assumptions, my politics, my social locations—or I will simply have a harden heart (or continue to have one) that is never confronted, never challenged, and never breaking my idolatries. I am already woke. I already know what the Bible is gonna say.
Chip M. Anderson, advocate for biblical social action; pastor of an urban church plant in the Hill neighborhood of New Haven, CT; husband, father, author, former Greek & NT professor; and, 19 years involved with social action.