At the 109th annual gathering of the Central Texas Conference, we have the special privilege of having one of the outstanding biblical scholars of the United Methodist Church teaching us. David Watson, Associate Professor of New Testament and Academic Dean and Vice President for Academic Affairs of United Theological Seminary, will be guiding us on the subject of Scripture and the Life of God: Why the Bible Matters Today More Than Ever.
With the Christian faith and moral virtue up for grabs in both our church and the wider secular culture of our time, we need to lean forward and let the Lord speak to us once again through the Holy Scriptures.
John Wesley wrote in the preface to his Explanatory Notes on the New Testament, “The Scripture therefore of the Old and New Testament, is a most solid and precious system of Divine truth. Every part thereof is worthy of God; and all together are one entire body, wherein is no defect, no excess. It is the fountain of heavenly wisdom, which they who are able to taste, prefer to all writings of men, however wise, or learned, or holy.” Famously John Wesley went on to write: “I want to know one thing – the way to heaven; how to land safe on that happy shore. God himself has condescended to teach me the way. For this very end He came from heaven. He hath written it down in a book. O give me that book! At any price, give me the book of God! I have it: here is knowledge enough for me. Let me be homo unius libri [a man of one book]. Here then I am, far from the busy ways of men. I sit down alone; only God is here. In His presence I open, I read His book; for this end, to find the way to heaven.” (taken from John Wesley’s 52 Standard Sermons: An Annotated Summary)
I recall vividly in my own conversion experience reading Soren Kierkegaard’s For Self-Examinationin which Kierkegaard argued that we should read the scriptures like we would read a love letter. As we move through these trouble times, I find myself going back again and again to Holy Scripture. I remember Cindy Brown, a friend and member at University United Methodist Church, commenting once that many people read about the Bible when they need to be actually reading the Bible itself! She is profoundly accurate. Yet it is a good thing that we do both. This is where the work of Dean Watson is so helpful! He puts the two together. He offers a scholarship that takes us way past a mindless literalism and at the same avoids the tank-traps of relativism.
Eugene Peterson, another great biblical scholar of our age once wrote: “Reading scripture constitutes an act of crisis. Day after day, week after week, it brings us into a world that is totally at odds with the type of world that newspaper and television serve up to us on a platter as our daily ration of data for conversation and concern. It is a world where God is active everywhere and always where God is fiery first cause and not occasional afterthought, where God cannot be procrastinated, where everything is relative to God and God is not relative to anything. Reading scripture involves a dizzying reorientation of our culture-condition and job-oriented assumptions.”
Now more than ever we need to step into the life and teaching of Holy Scripture. I hope you can join me in learning from Dr. David Watson. He will be teaching us on Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning. I look forward to our learning together!