By Mark Cutshall
Following his lecture, Timothy Beal (left) was joined by respondents Jeff Keuss (center), SPU professor of Christian ministry, and Blake Wood (right), lead pastor, First Free Methodist Church.
There's a golfer's Bible, an American patriot's Bible, and a bride's Bible. But in the midst of digital
culture, our ways of encountering Scripture are bound to change even faster than new “niche” study Bibles can be produced, says Timothy Beal '86.
Beal, a professor of religion at Case Western Reserve University, and author of The Rise and Fall of the Bible, spoke on “The Future of the Bible” on January 30, 2012, in a lecture hosted by Seattle Pacific University's School of Theology and the Center for Biblical and Theological Education.
“Our children and grandchildren won't be reading Scripture in the form of a bound book we're used to reading today,” he said. “We need to be asking the question, 'How is the Bible going to change?'”
However Scripture is accessed and read (or heard) in the future, Beal believes the church can't hide from the reality of rampant biblical illiteracy. Instead, Beal contends, the church has an opportunity to re-imagine the Bible as a “library of questions” to be discussed and interpreted in
“It is highly unlikely that Jesus ever saw, let alone read, a book in his life,” he said. “What Jesus
would have been handed was a scroll. The 'sacred capital' of Scripture resided in Jesus' own Jewish
scriptural culture; it resided in the live event of sharing Scripture, of the community's hearing.”
Blake Wood, lead pastor of First Free Methodist Church, who gave a response following Beal's lecture, challenged Beal's “library of questions” concept by pointing out that Christians can seek answers in Scripture, “if we don't disconnect it from the work of the Holy Spirit.”
“The Spirit inspired both the writers of Scripture and the collection of the canon itself, and the Spirit inspires us as we apply the Bible in our daily lives,” Wood said.
“Presentations like Dr. Beal's are important because they raise an awareness of our need for a biblical foundation,” says Celeste Cranston, director of the Center for Biblical and Theological Education.