The Bible and Community

This was my response to a post on Robin Dugall's blog.
I don't think that the Bible should be as separated from community as you talk about it. They are less distinguished from on each other because one is actually a form of the other. When we read Scripture we are entering into community both with the other people in the world who are reading it and with the people who were more intimately connected with it (i.e. the people it tells about, the people who wrote it, and the people it was written to.). The Bible is community! If we didn't have it we could survive... the Jews did, didn't they? They had, for much of their history, very little writing if any. Their divine revelation came through word of mouth, oral tradition, and community. The bible is an improvement, I believe, of this form of revelation. If we start to worship the Bible, rather than the God who it holds up and reveals, we're no different from those in Athens who Paul called to "Turn from these worthless things" (Acts 14); we are idolaters. We may have some truth about the God of the Bible but He is still an “Unknown God” to us until He is placed in the throne.

The bible is our authority but only in the context of community. The bible is not to be interpreted subjectively by an individual, rather we must take into account, if we believe that God is revealed in community, what the community is asking and saying about it. Thus we are entering into community through biblical interpretation. When I discuss and wrestle with the scriptures with the community at my side I get a taste of God. Without the community the bible is outside its element, so to speak. The bible needs the community. For it to be understood properly, that is for it to truly orchestrate how we do things, it has to be understood in the context of community.

Just as the bible needs the community the community needs the bible. For community to function properly, that is to live out the image of God, it needs the bible. For centuries, throughout Church history, the bible has acted as our constitution and our adhesive for community. Community needs constitution (which is a foundation for identity; it tells us who we are). For who knows how long the Jews united under a constitution. Theirs were the stories of their ancestors. By this constitution they discovered their identity in God and their relationship to Him. For us it is the Scriptures. Our community has united under the bible and through it we understand our identity and our relationship to God.

The Scriptures also act as our adhesive. It is what brings us together, it binds us. Being united under it and finding identity through it, together we strive to fulfill and be who God has ordained us to be.

What has happens when we worship the bible and spend more time defending its credibility than actually living by it is its stickyness wears off and its constitution is left to gather dust. Instead of guiding us and uniting us, it divides and breaks our community. The bible is about restoring the community and so therefore if it causes brokenness it isn’t being lived out. Instead of being a gathering point it becomes divisive and judgmental. In essence it is being stripped of its true virtue.

If we didn’t have the bible we would have to find another constitution and another adhesive. Without these things community is broken and dysfunctional. The bible is dangerous. It can either bring us together in its virtue or it can tear us apart being transformed into a vice. If we regard it properly it is beautiful if not it’s ugly. The bible is a dangerously powerful thing either for vice or virtue. We should be careful with that kind of power.