Home > Brian's Blogs, Prayer > Reading & Praying the Bible Formationally, part 3

Reading & Praying the Bible Formationally, part 3

It is possible to read the Bible in such a way that stifles our spiritual life and, perhaps, destroys the soul.  Yesterday we hammered on an approach called The Information Approach in favor of one called The Formation Approach.  But is this, dare I ask, a “slippery slope” to subjectivism and individualism?

Since we are building up to a point where we can learn a new method for reading and praying the Bible, I want to interact with this concern.  To do so, today I merely want to provide an extended quotation from M. Robert Mulholland’s Shaped by the Word (61-62).  It is a quote that I believe answers most of the concerns about reading the Bible formationally.

“We discover in using scripture in spiritual formation that the method is not the most important thing.  We have not yet come to the point where we can begin to think about methods.  Instead of methods, our motive is primary.  Our motive will shape our approach to the scripture.  Informational and formational are two different techniques for reading.  Yet the real issue is not a matter of which technique is better or even what is the optimum combination of techniques, but rather what posture toward the mystery of God can open us up to formational possibilities.  If we come to the informational aspect of reading with this inner posture of openness to God, the informational task will then lead us to the formative dynamic.

“You may have inferred from what I have said so far that the informational mode is of the “dark realm,” which I do not mean to imply at all.  I have overstressed the alternative to informational reading in order to highlight the contrast.  A fruitful interplay exists between the informational and formational modes.  We must have a certain level of information about the biblical passage, some sense of the meaning of the text in its original contest, some sense of what God was saying to the intended readers before it can become formational.  This is the informational dynamic, and it is important.  But there is also the formational dimension whereby the text becomes an experience of encounter with God.  The Word speaks to our “word,” and as we hear and respond to this encounter and address we begin to know experientially the presence and power of God in our own life.  The “meaning” of the text passes from information to the formative incarnation of that meaning in our daily life.

“There must be this constant interplay between the informational and formational modes of reading.  But the informational mode is only the “front porch” of the role of scripture in spiritual formation.  It is the point of entry into the text.  But once we have crossed the porch, we must enter into that deeper encounter with the Word that is the formational approach, if we are to experience our false self being shaped by the Word toward wholeness in the image of Christ.

“There is a need for balance here.  You may start with the informational dynamics, but you must be sensitive to the need to move to the formational dynamics of reading.  You must allow yourself to become open and receptive to the intrusion of the living Word of God into the garbled “word” you are.  You must be responsive to the word God is speaking you forth to be in the world.  You may start with the formational dynamics and find that you get tipped up on an informational point.  You will need to back off momentarily and deal informationally with the text and then move back to the formational mode.  There is an essential interplay between these two approaches to the scripture.  But as far as the role of scripture in spiritual formation is concerned, you ultimately need to arrive at a disciplined development of the formational mode of approaching the text.  Only in the formational mode, where that shift of the inner posture of our being takes place, can we become listeners.  Only in that mode can we become receptive and accessible to be addressed by the living Word of God.”

I think this is exceptionally well said.  Tomorrow we’ll look at an ancient method of formational reading (and praying!).

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Categories: Brian's Blogs, Prayer Tags: , ,
  1. AARON S HUNTER
    June 21, 2010 at 8:46 am

    NOT bad at all.will have to think and pray about this…god be with you allways.

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