Most North American Christians assume that they have a right, if not an obligation, to read the Bible. I challenge that assumption. No Task is more important than for the Church to take the Bible out of the hands of individual Christians in North America. Let us no longer give the Bible to children when they enter the third grade or whenever their assumed rise to Christian maturity is marked, such as eight-grade comencements. Let us rather tell them and their parents that they are possessed by habits far too corrupt for them to be encouraged to read the Bible on their own.After quickly looking through the extended dialogue between Bryan and TheBlueRaja, maybe I misunderstood Bryan's post (the discussion is largely one of epistemology). But it still raises an important question: for whom was the Bible written/is the Bible intended?
Let me quickly admit that I agree that the Bible is a 'dangerous' text and that the Christian (Catholic and Protestant) world must largely admit responsibility for the uses to which it has put its foundational text. But this isn't the sum total of what it means for the Bible to be 'dangerous'; this same quality (perhaps 'aggressive' is a better word) is behind the good that has been done, historically, as a result of the claims and expectations that the biblical traditions make on people's lives.
In the end, however, I felt it necessary to publicly declare my utter opposition to the sentiment above. (This seems to be a constant feature of interaction between Bryan and myself.) In the words of someone up to whom I look (it's quite hard not to end a phrase with a preposition, ain't it?!), 'God is a demagogue', in the second sense given on the Merriam-Webster Dictionary website. We (academic, largely Western and highly privileged individuals who primarily worry about where we'll eat rather than when) are not the people for whom the gospel was primarily intended. And I question whether we have the right to prevent others from accessing the Bible 'on their own'.
Actually, it seems to me that many of the problems beguiling the church throughout Christian history are related to the tendency of the privileged (scribal/priestly/scholarly, etc.) to take the Bible out of the hands of the demos. Perhaps we are the ones who have something to learn from the child with the Bible in his hands; perhaps we are the ones who are dogged by 'habits far too corrupt' for us to lay claim to the traditions of the church.
[Postscript: None of this is to suggest that American/Western Christianity is 'unelite', or that American/Western Christianity is not in need of its prophets to sound the call of repentance and reform. But I humbly suggest that our role, as academics, is to empower the church to a ministry of restoration, reconciliation, and involvement, rather than cut off the church from its source of tradition, identity, and purpose.]