The Dangerous Act of Reading

I operate with deeply Protestant sensibilities. I read, work with, and respond to scripture anticipating that it will challenge, even upend, the paradigms that I bring with me to the task.

As banal as that might sound (the idea that a 2,000 year old book is free to disrupt what we’ve come to know), I actually think it’s quite a radical posture.

Reading is dangerous.

A month or so ago, Greg Carey’s Huffington Post Article made the rounds again. It’s title, “Where Do ‘Liberal’ Bible Scholars Come From?” The short answer to his provocative question is this: from reading the Bible.

The best way for conservative churches to produce “liberal” biblical scholars is to keep encouraging young people to read the Bible.

Over the past couple of week Peter Enns has been hosting a series on “Aha Moments,” those times when folks encountered something that transformed how they understand what the Bible is.

Nobody in Pete’s series is a “liberal” bible scholar, but the theme recurs: reading the Bible opens up our eyes to things that actually are contained in scripture which the theologies about scripture that we cut our teeth on typically did not allow for.

Today on Seth Godin’s blog he talked about “Literacy and Unguided Reading.”

Controlled, or guided reading, is all well and good for those who want to control. That control is lost, and with it the stable present that they want to preserve, when people are free to read:

Unguided reading is a real threat, because unguided reading leads to uncomfortable questions.

Reading is a dangerous act.

With reading comes learning. Godin looks at this with giddy anticipation:

Teach an entire culture to read and connections and innovations go through the roof.

“Innovations go through the roof.”

This is, in fact, what happened in the wake of the Reformation. It’s still what happens when people read today.

Are we ready for the innovation? Are we willing to change? Are we willing to not be in control?

Are we ready for people to read?

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