UNDERSTANDING SCRIPTURE: Misreading Scripture With Western Eyes

I have already written about how I came to see the world through a Biblical world-view, UNDERSTANDING SCRIPTURE: It Starts By Learning The Biblical Worldview.  Now I want to explain how I learned to account for the misunderstandings I introduced to Scripture by reading it from my Western perspective.  The two actually go together.  We have to learn how to account for our Western cultural bias at the same time as we are learning to see the world from a Biblical understanding of our world.  When taken together, we will most likely see things in a very different way.

I found a book that helped guide me through the process of learning how to recognize many of the Western cultural biases that we bring to Scripture which can change what the author’s original message.  If you are of the mind and can afford to do so, I urge you to buy and read:

Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes: Removing Cultural Blinders to Better Understand the Bible

by: E. Randolph Richards and Brandon J. O’Brien

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Now, I will confess: I do not necessarily agree with everything the authors explain in this book, but that is not because I think they are wrong about their take on Western biases.  For me, it is because I see a common foundation underlying both of the Western and Middle Eastern world-views the authors discuss in their book.  Never-the-less, this was a very helpful book for me in that it got me to take a closer look at an aspect of Scripture of which I have been aware for some time, but that I did not know how to fit into my understanding of how we are supposed to live our faith. As a Westerner, I have been raised in a culture that values individuality, and which — as a result of this — sees the world from the perspective of ‘self.’  But the Bible tends to value the group, and because of this, it teaches a corporate or ‘collective’ perspective.

If the reader is of a political mind, especially if the reader embraces the ‘Classic Liberal/Natural Law’ political theory upon which the Western world is built, the notion of collectivism in Scripture can be a problem.  I know it has been a problem for me.  The Western world is inclined to see the ‘collective’ as being an attack on the individual, and on the individual’s God-given rights.  Consequently, it can cause us to read our bias for the individual and against the collective into Scripture where the truth of Scripture may actually be the reverse.  Scripture often places the emphasis of a passage on the group or community at the expense of the individual.  The first few chapters of the Book of Acts might even give a reader the impression that Scripture advocates Socialism or even Communism.

Now, the authors do not address politics, let alone Socialism, but they certainly explain the problem of Western cultural biases in a way that could easily give the impression that Scripture is actually opposed to the Western perspective.  This is contrary to everything the majority of Western Christians have been taught.  Needless to say, this can cause a great deal of internal conflict for a Westerner who is faithfully trying to understand the Word of God.  But this is precisely why this book is so valuable: it forces the Western reader to take a long, hard look at how they read and understand Scripture.  It also shows us how much of the original Scriptural message we may have missed because, in the original Biblical culture, it was left unsaid because it was understood.  Westerners do the same thing.  A great deal of what we say in the written word is not actually written out; it is just assumed that it is understood by both the author and the reader because we all share a common cultural understanding.  This book will help you see what has gone unsaid in Scripture that was most likely missed by Western readers.  It will also explain why it was left unsaid, which will force you to reflect on how these new revelations change the way you understand Scripture.

For me, this book helped me expand on the Biblical world view I learned in “The Unseen Realm.”  It also helped me to bring my understanding of Scripture into harmony with my aversion to the collective, and to see that there are spiritual forces behind the political ideologies currently tearing our world apart.  Read this book carefully and you will see that Scripture does teach us to focus on the group as a body.  After all, the ‘Church’ is referred to as ‘The Body of Christ.’  But Scripture does not teach the Socialist or Communist idea of the collective, either.  In fact, Scripture teaches a corporatism closer to the notion of a family or a commonwealth.  Our willingness to be our brother and sister’s keeper is supposed to be voluntary, not compelled by the sword.  The collectivism being pushed in the West today is actually connected to the evil Principalities discussed in “The Unseen Realm” (these are the same Principalities mentioned in the Books of Daniel and Ephesians).  Strangely enough, getting all of this ‘political’ stuff straight in my head also helped me to better understand how we Westerners have become — at least in part — spiritually blind.  And how a more Biblical culture would help me rely on God in a much more concrete way than we do in modern Western Christianity.  Even prophecy takes on a much more applicable place in my understanding of Scripture.  Finally, I can see now that everything we do in this world is actually a reflection of and is driven by the war being waged in the Spiritual world.

I cannot promise you will get the same things out of reading this book.  All I can do is tell you that — for me — it completed an ‘awakening’ which started when I read “The Unseen Realm.”  For me, Scripture has come alive — literally.  It speaks to me in an entirely new and different way which has given me a sense of peace that surpasses human understanding.  I can only pray that, if you read it, the Lord will use it to open Scripture to you in a similar manner.

 

 

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