Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Words on the Word

Just saw this on the news. I can see what the artist was trying do - to get people to interact with the Scriptures and to see them as something that is theirs and something that includes them and can affect their lives... Unfortunately...

The scriptures, through years of biblical scholarship and biblical criticism, have become something that can be criticized, compartmentalised, and personalised. The good news with this is folks that we now understand more about the bible and the biblical world and it's context and language than ever before.

The bad news is that placing the bible 'out there' as art, means that it becomes something that can be interacted with in ways that might not been seen as 'appropriate' or in ways that neither the church nor the artist intended.

The whole world has been privatised, courtesy of modern and post modern culture. This includes what might be considered to be 'true', including whether the Bible might be 'true', and what might be considered to be 'art' or not.

Now without sparking a whole debate on the Turner Prize et al, I think that the intentions of the artist were noble. She was asking contemporary Britain questions like: what is the Bible? How do we 'use' it? What, if anything, do these ancient stories say to me or about me?

Perhaps this art installation, has revealed something else, a real need for a renewed vocabulary for understanding the Scriptures in a post Biblical age, and serious lack of Biblical literacy within contemporary Britain.

This is surely a great task for the church. Jesus is God's Incarnate Word. How do we incarnate the great truths of God contained in the Big Story of the Bible in a post-Christian, post-biblical, and post-book era? We need to follow Jesus, become story tellers again. Trevor Hart once said that Christians should become familar with carrying the Bible in one hand and a a novel in the other.

His point was that that the language and images used in novels should inform how we 'translate' the Bible into contemporary living.

I would like to echo the thinking of Mark Brown and others at the recent Digital Symposium in Durham - that we should have novels, newspapers, and access to digital media such as the internet, tv and radio, DVDs, and social netowking tools like Twitter and Facebook...

... and tell our own parables in pixels and 140 characters.

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