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How to Believe the Bible Stories
If we are really to understand the Bible record, we must enter into our study of it on the assumption that the experiences recorded there are basically of the same type as ours would have been if we had been there. Those who lived through those experiences felt very much as we would have if we had been in their place. Unless this comes home to us, the things that happened to the people in the Bible will remain unreal to us. We will not be able to believe or find its content to be real, because it will have no experiential substance for us.
Failure to read the Bible in this realistic manner accounts for two common problems in Christian groups that hold the Bible central to their faith.
One is that it becomes simply a book of doctrine, of abstract truth about God, which one can search endlessly without encountering God himself or hearing his voice. This same attitude led the religious authority of Jesus' own day to use the Scriptures for the very purpose of avoiding him....
The other problem that arises when we do not understand the experiences of biblical characters in terms of our own experience is that we simply stop reading the Bible altogether. Or else we take it in regular does, choking it down like medicine because someone told us that it would be good for us--though we really do not find it to be so.
The open secret of many "Bible-believing" churches is that only a very small percentage of their members study the Bible with even the degree of interest, intelligence or joy that they bring to bear upon their favorite newspaper or magazine. In my opinion, based upon considerable experience, this is primarily because they do not know and are not taught how to understand the experience of biblical characters in terms of their own experience.
- Dallas Willard, Hearing God