Me not being ‘western’ I wondered if this book was worth a read. After recommendations from a couple of friends, I read it. There was one other important reason to read it. Most of the commentaries, books, and unpacking of scripture I engage with is western. I engage a lot with ‘western theology’, whatever that means. E. Randolph Richards and Brandon J. O’Brien wrote Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes: Removing Cultural Blinders to Better Understand the Bible.
The two American theologians had exposure in a different cultural context. It exposed differences in understanding scripture. Richards and O’Brien don’t highlight every difference between western and other culture. But, highlight some key principles that lead to a misunderstanding of scripture because of worldview.
They give stark examples of how culture and worldview impact how we read, understand and apply scripture. What they mean for our own spiritual growth and formation.
On Culture, Context, and Worldview
There is no purely objective Biblical interpretation. This is not postmodern relativism. We believe the truth is the truth. But there’s no way around the fact that our cultural and historical contexts supply us with habits of mind that lead us to read the Bible differently than Christians in other cultural and historical contexts. — Richards and O’Brien
The book gives advice, tips and suggested exercises to help identify and navigate differences in worldview. Unless we have a good understanding of a message meant when it was said, we can’t aptly apply its principles. This makes having a fair insight into the culture and norms it was written or communicated important.
Before we can be confident we are reading the Bible accurately, we need to understand what assumptions and values we project onto the Bible: those things that go without being said… — Richards and O’Brien
General Book Stuff
The authors did a great job of communicating something complex in a simple way. It is an easy read. It isn’t one of those technically written theological books. Easy to follow and understand.
Add the book to your reading list. Maybe even read it with a group of friends. You’re likely to get even more out of it reading it with a group.
Some Of My Other Favourite Quotes
The trouble is, what is “proper” by our standards-even by our Christian standards-is as often projected onto the Bible as it is…
Because mores are not universal, we may not be aware that these different gut-level reactions to certain behaviors can affect the way we read the Bible. Indeed, if they are not made explicit, our cultural mores can lead us to misread the Bible.
We also believe that to understand a culture, you must be aware of ethnicity and especially the prejudices that may exist within a particular culture. To ignore them is naive and can result in serious misunderstanding.
Readability — 5/5
Breadth / Depth of — Content 4/5
Helpfulness — 4/5