Performative Bible Studies

The Bible is a treasure chest of words and stories that are bristling and living.  Each of them teems with energy, sparking out with flashes and flames.  But our wont is to treat it like a locked cupboard that only certain custodians have the key for.

Rather, let us agree that the Bible itself teaches that it is meant to be unleashed.  It is ready to leap into action and overturn lives and perspectives on life.  Every time we read it, we should let “serendipity” have its reign, ordering our time and thoughts. In many ways, the Bible should be unpredictable in its meaning and consequences, not trapped in traditions and archaeology.  Let us unharness its potential. Let tradition and archaeology come to our aid in the process.

It is our encounter with its divine compiler and organizer who uses what seem like hidebound and mind-numbing chronicles, memorized and passed down, to incarnate within us again and again.  But such miraculous and seemingly magical things depend on an imagination that awakened by the serendipitous Holy Spirit, constantly brooding over us in our prayerful reading.  We are but participants in how the Holy Spirit activates it, actors and reactors in its serendipitous invasion into time and space.

Let us approach Bible reading with expectation and imagination.  Let us find the pauses and lacunae in our priorities when the inner spirit of a person is vacant, yet fully awake.  We must be like those who watch for dawn to break, breathless and alert, studying every flicker of light and wisp of sound for an approaching intruder or cheerful dawn. When either occurs, our whole purpose for reading the Bible is fulfilled.  We discover who we are and what is our place as we listen and read the Bible.

I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope.  My soul waits for the LORD more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen wait for morning.  Awake, O my soul.  Awake, my glory, I will awake the dawn.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Reflection

From the back cover of the book:

“What if Luke had to reteach the basic lessons of his history of the early Church?  How would he communicate his point while livening up the details for someone who either was not present for the actual event or had not paid sufficient attention the first time he wrote Acts of the Apostles?

This is Luke’s résumé for a younger and still eager Theophilus.  He reenacts stories and replays events almost as a performance before the audience’s eyes. He knows that history is not a dry memorization of facts nor a chain of events, but a compendium of vital lessons that guide growth and change.  History unfolds as episodes, cohering around an intelligible theme with drama and suspense.  Not unlike a play, it requires imaginative performance to both entertain and provoke an audience to react.

This is a fresh way of presenting the Bible, a method based on a rapidly growing movement in college and university classrooms called “reacting.” It is in line with more traditional ways of understanding Scripture as performed in the context of liturgy.  At the same time this book challenges individual with creative poems and illustrations and a built-in system of application questions for daily readings.”

When Mark C. Carnes, Professor of History, Columbia University and author of Minds on Fire:  How Role-Immersion Games Transform College (Harvard, 2014) read the book, this is how he characterized its approach to studying the Bible:

“A spotlight illuminates two figures on a darkened stage.  The taller actor—is it Russell Crowe?—is the Apostle Luke.  With him is a younger man.  Luke is explaining the skepticism that greeted the apostles after the death and resurrection of Jesus.  But just as you settle into your chair to watch the actors do their magic, Luke steps forward and addresses you:  “Ask yourself: ‘Have I allowed my own sense of inadequacy to keep me quiet about what I believe to be the truth?”’ Now you are a performer in a timeless existential drama, an inspiring production by Mark Whitters, savvy director, superb Biblical scholar, and masterful pedagogue.”

Mark Carnes is the mentor for many of us who are trying to figure out new ways of reaching our students, and I think his review of my book hits the nail on the head when it comes to my goal for this book.

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment