You should know by now that I love Stanley Hauerwas. He’s pithy, provocative, and faithful. And he likes to stir the pot. Here’s something he wrote in “Unleashing the Scripture:”
“Most North American Christians assume they have a right, if not an obligation, to read the Bible. I challenge that assumption. No task is more important 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 every child when they enter the third grade or whenever their assumed rise to Christian maturity is marked….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.”
Wow. That’ll turn some heads. Essentially, Hauerwas is arguing that if we read the Bible without being shaped by the practices and norms of the Church and the Christian life, then we will read into the Bible all of our own presuppositions and worldview. For example, if we have not yet learned to follow the nonviolent example of Jesus, then reading “turn the other cheek” will have no power in our lives. Rather, we will justify those times when we don’t turn the other cheek and repay with violence and say something like, “Well, I had to use my common sense.”
This is Hauerwas’ point. We have to learn a new common sense. We have to learn, from the Church, the saints, and our tradition, how to live as a Christian before we can make sense of what Jesus says. It is necessary to first acquire the habits of a virtuous Christian life before really understanding what is going on in the scriptures.