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The Bible - A Story That Makes Sense of Life

The Bible - A Story That Makes Sense of Life
‘What Use Is the Bible to Someone Like Me?’ 
This is the question Christians and sceptics alike will find answered in his recently published book, says Bible scholar Andrew Ollerton.

The question was heart-felt and posed by a friend while chatting on the touchline as our sons played football together. He had been listening to podcasts by the likes of Russell Brand and Jordan Peterson who, in their different ways, are convinced that our shallow culture needs to rediscover the depth and wisdom of the Bible. Since then, Covid-19 along with political upheaval and environmental angst has caused widespread uncertainty. In the light of the fragility and anxiety that mark our times where can we turn to for trustworthy guidance and hope?

I believe we need to rediscover the Bible as a story that makes sense of life; a centre of gravity amid the uncertainty. As Bishop Lesslie Newbigin insisted, the grand narrative of scripture not only provides essential truth for the Church but also an effective way to engage culture. After all, the Bible opens with an all-encompassing line: ‘In the beginning…’ and closes with visions of a renewed cosmos. In between, there is a complex narrative with many twists and turns. However, woven through particular characters, covenants and traditions there is a much larger plot line – one that reveals the character of God and what it truly means to be human.

The book I have written, therefore, takes people on a journey through the storyline of scripture in order to reveal its enduring signifi cance for them, the assumption being that for many inside and outside the Church their ‘beef with the Bible’ is not so much Is it true? but Is it worth the effort? Can the Bible still scratch our contemporary itches and make sense of our human story? The book is divided into six parts, each focusing on a major episode in the Bible and connecting it to our human condition: our desire for meaning, our quest for freedom, our cry for peace, our need for love, our thirst for community and our longing for home.

As J.R.R. Tolkien concluded, the Bible is a ‘story of a larger kind’, an archetypal plot line. That’s why its ancient history remains relevant: our human stories are contained within it. We are not Israel enslaved in Egypt, but their quest for freedom mirrors our own. We are not with Jesus on the shores of Lake Galilee, but our need for a messiah is just as real.

To help break the Bible into manageable pieces, each of the six parts is further sub-divided into bite-sized chapters that take 10 minutes to read and provide a daily feed of content. Each ‘mini-chapter’ also concludes with a short scripture reading and a reflective exercise that provides breathing space and a moment for self-awareness. Made up of forty mini-chapters and Bible readings, the book also offers a resource for Lent as well as Christmas gift lists. Each part of the book contains a discussion guide that links to free video content, making it ideal for churches and small groups to experience together on a weekly basis. 

The audience I had in mind, therefore, includes Christians wanting to experience the Bible in a deeper way, as well as people not yet convinced but looking for answers. As I note in the introduction: ‘Don’t wait until you believe it all. Try it on for size. See if it fits and makes sense to you.’ So, expect Christians to buy this book for themselves and then order another copy for their curious friend. The overall pitch is popular and introductory, requiring no prior knowledge. Perhaps its USP is an unusual blend of theological depth with personal anecdotes, cultural illustrations and even some humour. As the reader journeys through they will encounter not only insights that lead to greater understanding but also a personal experience, a pilgrimage through the landscape of scripture. By the end, that honest question from the touchline should be more than resolved. As the strapline of the book puts it: when we make sense of the Bible, the Bible makes sense of us.

 

Revd Dr Andrew Ollerton is Bible Society’s Bible Communication & Engagement Consultant

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The Bible (Paperback)
Andrew Ollerton
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