Our Interview with Christianity Today on the Museum of the Bible

There’s a lot of buzz surrounding the Museum of the Bible, which opens on November 17 in the heart of Washington, DC. The 430,000-square-foot space three blocks south of the Capitol building will be a sight to behold, boasting technological spectacles like a 140-foot overhead LED screen, a performing arts theater with 17 4K resolution projectors, handheld touchscreen “digital docents,” augmented reality games for kids, and more.

The 140-ft LED ceiling displays 5 different scenes (Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post)

Christianity Today’s November cover story is on the forthcoming opening of the museum, so they reached out to us and hosted Glenn Paauw on their “Quick to Listen” podcast with assistant editor Morgan Lee and editorial director Ted Olsen. They unpack what it means to have a Museum of the Bible, what it means to engage the Bible, and what role our experiences with the Bible play in our understanding of God’s Word.

Check out Glenn’s interview with CT and let us know what you think.

 

Media Favorites 2017

Over the course of the year, IFBR staff have had the opportunity to be featured in a number of different media outlets. So we gathered together a few interviews and articles from 2017 (so far) that we feel best reflect our mission, philosophy, and vision for the Bible Reading Movement.

If you’d like to set up an interview or have us write for you, contact us to set something up.

ChurchLeaders.com Podcast

Glenn Paauw and Paul Caminiti joined Jason Daye at ChurchLeaders.com to talk about the current epidemic of Biblical illiteracy, and how tracing the problems back to their roots 500 years ago can help us create solutions for our churches today.

Interview with the Bible Buying Guide

Randy Brown at the Bible Buying Guide published a comprehensive interview with Glenn Paauw in which they discuss the Institute for Bible Reading and our work to pioneer a Bible Reading Movement. They talk at length about the importance of form and design in our Bibles, and how Immerse reflects many of the changes that are necessary for a great Bible reading experience. If you you want an in-depth look at IFBR and our work, this 4000+ word interview is a great resource.

Backstage at Q Nashville

Paul Caminiti was interviewed during this year’s Q conference in Nashville. He shares IFBR’s story and talks about how we’re working for a better future for the Bible.

Premier Christianity Magazine Article

Glenn Paauw wrote an article for UK magazine Premier Christianity about how snacking on “Scripture McNuggets” is a misuse of the Bible. He then lays out a series of steps we can take to receive the Bible on its own terms and recover deep Bible engagement.

What We’re Reading: September 2017

From time to time we’ll share some of the interesting and thought-provoking content we come across.

*Note: Sharing doesn’t necessarily imply 100% agreement with the article or endorsement of the author.

Cultivating the Practice of Reading Scripture by Joel B. Green
The Scriptures are often approached with the intent to master their propositions or memorize their truths. Joel Green, provost for Fuller Seminary and dean of the School of Theology, shares this thoughts on Scripture reading’s role in spiritual formation. “The practice of reading Scripture is not about learning how to mold the biblical message to contemporary lives and modern needs.” says Green, “Rather, the Scriptures yearn to reshape how we comprehend our lives and identify our greatest needs.” He then offers six suggestions for cultivating the practice of reading Scripture not so that we can master it, but so that it can “master us” and do the work of molding us into the image of Christ.


Putting the Bible Together by Kaz Yamazaki-Ransom
As narrative theology has gained popularity there have been multiple frameworks for structuring the “metanarrative” of the Bible. Some have offered a three or four-part model, others (like N. T. Wright) have offered a five-act drama model. Still others use a six-act model. Japanese theologian Kaz Yamazaki-Ransom offers a seven-part model, arguing that it allows for a “chiastic” story form, with Jesus at the center of the storyline as the redeemer of the earlier acts.


Interactions of the Reading Mind by Johs Krejberg Haahr
With the ubiquity of smartphones (with ever-increasing screen sizes) and popularity of e-readers and tablets, many people are choosing to read on screens rather than on paper. So how can we leverage technology to provide a great reading experience? The folks at Danish design firm 2K/DENMARK recognize that the media of screens and books have inherent differences that cannot be overlooked, so simply trying to copy a physical reading experience on a digital device is a subpar solution. This article in particular explores the different levels of interaction that happen during reading and the role the digital medium should play in each level. When should technology step in to assist the user, and when should it fade into the background?

 

How the First Christians Challenge Us to Be Bible Readers

They were counter-cultural—standing out in a world where reading and writing were rare. They were fully committed—doing everything necessary to ensure their communities were deeply formed by written texts. They were transformed—this solid, ongoing determination to live within these texts produced real change in their beliefs and in the character of their lives. The earliest Christians were truly people of the book.

And all of this happened in spite of the fact that in their world the Bible itself was still being written, and was not yet fully formed as a collection of sacred writings. Before the Bible was even completed, there was an impressive and widespread belief that knowing this content was basic to this new Jesus movement.

The new believers were committed from the start to immersing all of their communities deeply in the sacred stories and texts of their faith. Some of these texts were already very old, having been preserved by the ancient people of God. Some were brand new letters to fledgling churches or early collections of the oral traditions about Jesus. Regardless, the first followers of Jesus devoted themselves to learning all of it.

What Serious Commitment Looks Like

What makes this story remarkable is how unique this devotion was in the world of the Roman Empire. The religions of this period were centered especially on the offering of sacrifices to the gods and the accompanying profession of loyalty. Learning the content of a set of stories and instruction was not part of the arrangement.

The earliest Christian converts came into the faith from hearing the public preaching or private sharing of the announcement of the saving work of Messiah Jesus. But once they were in, they were immediately expected to incorporate themselves into an older story of what God had been doing in the world. No doubt, the experiences and practices of the synagogue were decisively influential on the first gathering of Jesus followers. The regular rhythm of public Scripture reading and discussion moved seamlessly into the first churches.

The regular rhythm of public Scripture reading and discussion moved seamlessly into the first churches.Click To Tweet

But when we consider that these churches were increasingly made up of Gentiles joining what was at first a Jewish movement, we can begin to recognize how striking the commitment to God’s written revelation really was. Early Christian leaders had to make heroic efforts to even produce and pass on these texts. There was no personal or financial gain in it for them, and they weren’t part of the leisure class with a household full of slaves to write, copy, and deliver their new writings.

First, writing materials themselves were rare and expensive. Writing and copying was slow, time-consuming work. In a world with no postal or delivery services, travel was both dangerous and costly. Yet the Christians were determined to produce a prodigious amount of new religious material and to make sure other far-flung Christian communities received copies of it.

As one example, we can look at the use of letters in ancient Rome, which were common enough, yet almost always very short. In contrast, the early Christian letters were lengthy, seeking to provide whole congregations with a significant amount of instruction and teaching. Ordinary papyrus letters averaged about 87 words (we have about 14,000 examples preserved). Even the more literary letters of someone like Cicero ranged only from 22 to 2,530 words. In comparison, Paul’s shortest preserved letter, Philemon, is 395 words in Greek and his longer ones are off the charts (Romans is over 7,000 words, 1 Corinthians is over 6,800, and 2 Corinthians over 4,000). This would have been unheard of in the ancient world. In short, this is serious content, and the believers were expected to be serious learners.

What Text-based Christian Formation Looks Like

What would happen when a particular local gathering of Christians would receive a new apostolic letter, or even their first copy of one of ancient Israel’s sacred writings? The vast majority of the members of this community would have been illiterate, reflecting this characteristic of the larger Roman world. Yet all the evidence we have suggests that Christian worship gatherings always included a time for the public reading of, and interaction with, these Scripture texts.

All it took was at least one member who could read the text out loud. Reading the Scriptures became the ongoing rhythm of these times of worship and praise, learning and instruction. It is noteworthy, for example, how Paul and the other apostles showed no hesitation in quoting or referencing significantly from Israel’s Bible. Again, these congregations were largely made up of former pagans. These texts would have been completely foreign to most of them. Yet early Christian leaders expected everyone to enter into these stories of Israel as their own, to learn them inside and out.

They were people of the book, learners of the text, keepers of the traditions. And it made all the difference.

So what about us, today? What would it look like if we also became counter-cultural, committed, and willing to be transformed by these God-breathed books? What if we demonstrated this level of devotion? Maybe we too could change the world.

*The full telling of this story can be found in “A ‘Bookish’ Religion,” in Destroyer of the gods: Early Christian Distinctiveness in the Roman World, by Larry W. Hurtado, 2016, pp. 105-141.

 

What Millennials Want With the Bible

I was born in 1990, smack in the middle of what most people consider the Millennial generation. As a Millennial, it’s been slightly depressing, slightly confusing, and slightly amusing reading all of the (digital) ink that’s been spilled trying to figure out my generation, its relationship with the Bible, and its role in the Church.

We lead the way in “Bible skepticism.” Our short attention spans, conditioned by scrolling through thousands of tweets, Facebook statuses, and Instagram photos, seem to leave little hope of longform reading. Maybe if we could just get the Bible in Tweet form? Or even better, Emojis!

A better way forward

Instead of trying to contort our Holy Scriptures and Christian faith into something Millennials will “approve”, what if our generation is actually looking for something bigger, something that transcends what we experience with our smartphones?

That’s why I loved this article, Reaching a New Generation with the Bible by Cara Meredith on CT Pastors. She touches on important factors we at the Institute for Bible Reading believe constitute rich, impactful Bible reading. Authentic community. A powerful, life-defining story. Space to open up and ask difficult questions.

My generation craves community and authenticity. When it comes to the Bible, we don’t need emojis. Trust me, we already have enough. What we need is to encounter the real, wild, untamed lands of the Bible’s story, and to encounter them together. The Institute for Bible Reading has worked hard to make sure those two ideas are central to the DNA of our signature program, Immerse: The Bible Reading Experience.

I highly recommend you check out Reaching a New Generation with the Bible, then let us know what you think by leaving a comment below!