Scripture in Common Usage VI: Positive Application III: Scripture as Personal Meditative Redeemer

November 11, 2013

In the previous post in this series, we looked at scripture as a communal conversation. I stated that scripture at its best can inspire a group to engage in just peacemaking; I placed “Scripture as communal conversation” at the nexus between just peacemaking and the focus of this entry, “scripture as personal meditative redeemer.”

  Those tied to any form of orthodox religiosity may often consider a solo venture into scripture as fraught with potential error. In this case it is amazing that the Protestant reformers placed such a high emphasis on an individual encounter with scripture because the history of religion is replete with amazing detours which emerge from such personal encounters made by individuals without grounding in some sort of unifying compass, tradition, or groundwork. Because as this whole series of posts has hopefully been clear about, a universe of potential good and potential bad vies for enactment within the canon of practically any religious corpus. So how am I to claim that scripture engaged by an individual can take the role of meditative redeemer? How is it that one can solely approach scripture, find the impetus to then engage in a communal conversation which can then (hopefully) lead to positive engaged peacemaking?

Scripture is challenging. If one is to take it seriously, regardless of what they do or do not believe about (g)God(s), the authority of a particular scripture, or the power of a faith community, one must be prepared to confront complex, often troubling, worldviews. Any piece of scripture faced today is the product of a time far removed from our current day. The social systems, customs, values, and experiences faced by the writer(s) of a particular piece of what is now held to be scripture may very well share some strong commonalities with us in our own context, but will also always be very foreign. So when one confronts scripture seriously, one is forced to question the viewpoints, bias’s, experiences, and realities of not only the author(s) context but their own modern context as well. A true engagement with any scripture should occasionally force one to question not only the viability of transporting the systems and frameworks of a scriptural era into one’s own era, but also the viability of continually maintaining and reinforcing their own current values, systems, and worldviews. Maybe the author(s) of an ancient scriptural book were unduly influenced by social values that were grounded in bad science and misguided prejudices; at the same time, maybe some of our own values are the result of the same thing. Grappling with both ages of perception simultaneously can spark personal redemption of thought and action in ways completely unforeseen by the original author, the original body which granted the text authority, as well as any particular religious body in existence today.

Scripture can serve as a personal meditative redeemer in striking a unique tone of rhythm and language not found in any contemporary work. By engaging in the text in its original language(s), by consulting its history of translation, interpretation, and commentary, an individual can absorb a new meaning or question every time a passage is revisited.

Finally, scripture encountered personally is still partaking in communal conversation–because scripture is the product of a community, from authorship to engagement, tradition, interpretation, and commentary. One enters that conversation even when alone when they wrestle with any scripture seriously.

These are just some of the ways scripture can serve as a meditative personal good with the effect of some variety of personal redemption when encountered seriously. This good can come at extreme ends of a spectrum; for a pious, traditional believer who reads their holy text prayerfully, discerningly, and in search of spiritual guidance, the step then into community and engagement is an easy one with historical examples aplenty. Yet I argue that even at the other end of the spectrum, a scripture can be encountered even by a doubter, a reader or academic, or one who doesn’t believe in religion in any traditional manner and still function in this way by causing one to attempt to enter the mental and spiritual framework of an ancient or foreign time and thus wrestle with their identity and ones current own. The aesthetic, scholastic, and sociological depth of a scripture still pulls even the strongest of doubters into its conversation and forces them to make choices. As we move to the epilogues of this series and consider truly what scripture is and if it is an overall good or not, we keep an eye on things that function as scripture and consider the role of scripture in the future. The potential for non-canonical poetry, constitutions, declarations, literature, song, etc. to function as positive scripture looms on the horizon.


One Response to “Scripture in Common Usage VI: Positive Application III: Scripture as Personal Meditative Redeemer”

  1. […] VI. Scripture in Common Usage VI: Positive Application III- Scripture as Personal Meditative Redeeme… […]

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