Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes

I like to think I’m culturally intelligent. That’s probably the first hint that I’m not. But still, I’ve traveled the world, worked on global initiatives, and tried my best to educate myself on cultural sensitivity.

Then I pick up the book Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes: Removing Cultural Blinders to Better Understand the Bible by E. Randolph Richards and Brandon J. O’Brien and I realize just how much more I need to learn.

The authors, both accomplished Evangelical theologians, show how we interpret Scripture through the eyes of our cultural bias. No surprise there, right? But they take on some really cherished stories — including the Beatitudes — and explain just how badly we’ve understood them. It was both fascinating and disturbing to read this book. Which means I loved it.

Here’s a quick example of how our cultural bias influences how we read the Bible stories. Last Sunday D’Aun and I were in church and the lyrics of the praise songs were projected onto the screens. It was stunning how many used words like “I”, “me”, or “myself”. It was all very self-centered and individualistic. Even a few old hymns were written that way.

In the non-Western world there is a more collective perspective. It’s more about “we”, “our”, and “us” than it is about the individualistic view.

As the Church (capital C) becomes less Western and more global, we need to understand the importance of understanding Scripture through collective eyes. It’s less a personal faith and more of a corporate faith.

Anyway, this is a valuable book we all should read. I didn’t agree with all of it, or rather I don’t think the authors fairly represented some things. But the weaknesses were FAR outweighed by the positives. Definitely on my top ten list of books I’ve read this year.


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