Listen: Tim Keller on reading the Bible. (For more, catch the full-length interview)
When it comes to reading the Bible, Tim Keller’s got quite some wisdom to share.
After 30 years in ministry, preaching thousands of Bible messages aimed at helping people move closer to God, and writing several books on theology, he’s thought long and hard about how to get to the heart of the holy book.
So when we caught up with him for a chat about his latest book, we asked if there’s anything readers should keep in mind when looking into the Bible.
Dr Keller’s biggest tip was to think of it not as just a collection of stories or wise sayings, but as one long narrative with a single direction and theme.
“Often people reading the Bible don’t understand it as having a coherent narrative,” Dr Keller said. “It’s basically a book with a single story that climaxes in Jesus Christ.“
“Often it’s looked at as a series of Aesop’s Fables: ‘Here’s the story of David, here’s the story of Abraham’, God’s ‘little lessons for how you live life’.
“There’s a lot of Christians that read the Bible like that, in which case the Bible just becomes a series of moral examples that you have to live up to. And you miss the whole point of the Gospel of salvation through grace and through Jesus Christ. It just turns you into a ‘little Pharisee’, or a person who’s always weighed down, because you’re never living up to all the moral rules.”
“When Christians read the Bible like that, it crushes them. It turns them into legalists.”
He said thinking of the Bible as a book of moral lessons leads to either religious guilt, or a cold heart towards faith.
“When Christians read the Bible like that, it crushes them. It turns them into legalists, makes them very discouraged. And when non-Christians look at it like that and they don’t see the unity of it – and how it’s a book about Jesus and it points toward Christ – they too just see it as an interesting book of ancient myths and fables that you can take or leave, depending on which ones you like the best.
“So not seeing it as a coherent narrative actually hurts both Christians and non-Christians.”