How is a mortal such as me qualified to interpret the word of God? This question came up in a comment chain a few days back.
What a fantastic question. And I think I want to begin by saying, as the question implies, 'I am not.' By which I mean, 'I don't feel qualified.' Who would? Scholars have made their life's work out of studying small parts of one book. How could I dare to say I know more?
Thankfully I don't need to be qualified.
Having in my hand a collection of the greatest books ever written and daring to suggest I could interpret them would be ridiculous. But not for the reasons you would expect. I can't interpret the Bible to you because it is not a code. The key to the scriptures is not to be found in a commentary, a preacher or even a scholar. The key to the Scriptures is in the Scriptures.
It doesn't need interpretation.
If I felt I needed to be qualified or the Bible needed to be interpreted I would be basing my ministry on the insufficiency of scripture (thanks to Peter Adam for the term) - I would be saying that the scriptures take us so far but then we need teaching, tradition, contemporary revelation, reason, recent documents and more.
The Bible doesn't tell us that these things are needed. It tells us that if we use it we will find it useful and equipping.
Far too many preachers and teachers, when they apply the Bible to people's lives, are actually reading their own prejudices back into the Scriptures. They find verses that tell people to give 10% of their income to the church, read their Bible alone for 20 minutes a day and only have sex within monogamous, heterosexual marriage. Philip Pullman was right to draw people's attention to the dangers of the church manipulative.
I find it is better to help people get into the world of the Bible (we understand what it meant to them then in order to understand what it might mean to us now) and lay out any implications it might have for us today.
Something strange does happen when I read the Bible. It works more like food than text. If I don't read it for a few days I feel undernourished.
The truth of the Bible, which claims to be God-breathed, is to be found not in interpreting it but in relationship with it and with those who similarly seek. If you approach it is as a living word you will find it more like a friend than a set of rules.
I could write more but have probably done enough 3,000 word posts for the month. So lets talk about some Bible for a bit. Any favourite questions?