It nearly goes without saying that evangelicals have a special relationship with the Bible. It’s not the same as their personal relationship with Jesus Christ, but it can sometimes come close.
For one thing, when we talk about “the Word,” it is sometimes hard to tell if we’re talking about the Bible or the person of Jesus, for we generally capitalize Word in either case. And we tend to talk about the Bible as if it is a living thing, as per 2 Timothy 3:16: “All Scripture is God-breathed.” It harkens to Genesis, when God “breathed into [Adam’s] nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being” (Gen. 2:7).
As such, we talk about a Bible passage that “speaks to us” or about how we “heard God” as we read a passage of Scripture.
To remind us of the personal nature of the Bible, we often remind one another that, as much as anything else, the Bible is to be read as a personal letter from God to us. This analogy was eloquently advocated by the philosopher Søren Kierkegaard:
My listener, how highly do you value God’s Word? … Imagine a lover who has received a letter from his beloved. I assume that God’s Word is just as precious to you as this letter is to the lover. I assume that you read and think you ought to read God’s Word in the same way the lover reads this letter.
In another essay he casts a distrustful eye to learned commentaries—in his view, they often obscure the plain meaning of the text as they explore the linguistic and historical context of a passage. Instead, he says,
Each of us should read this letter solely as an individual, as a single individual who has received this letter from God. In reading ...1
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