With the release of our first Bible study journal, Walk with Matthew, Pier Press® continues its process of constructing a foundation upon which to build. Our mission is to facilitate a mutually respectful conversation about topics at the intersection of science and spirit. Our preliminary tasks have focused on creating a space in which that conversation can take place and providing tools to facilitate mutual understanding.
We designed our initial projects to help overcome twin challenges related to pervasive misinformation about what the Bible says. On one hand, some people lack personal experience reading Biblical texts. Their opinions related to the Bible's contents are shaped by the claims of popular culture and media reports. Because they lack first-hand knowledge about the subject, they have trouble separating the spin from reality. On the other hand, some people with intensely religious backgrounds find that they have been indoctrinated in specific, decontextualized interpretations. That kind of training can make it difficult for them to step back and appreciate the validity of other viewpoints.
These issues play out in conversations that can become heated. One person insists that the Bible is antiquated hogwash because the Bible purportedly claims that the earth is in the center of the solar system (in fact, the Bible doesn't make this claim) or that it condones slavery and genocide (again, false). Another person says that scientific methods are hogwash because the Bible provides clear, irrefutable information about how the earth and its inhabitants were created (the Bible doesn't do this) and precise details about how the human experience will end (again, false).
The practice of examining the actual Biblical texts within their original context can help dispel these kinds of rumors. For example, the notion that the Bible insists on a geocentric model of the solar system rests on references such as Psalm 93:1. The last phrase of this verse says, "Indeed, the world is established, it cannot be moved (NET)." Another translation puts it this way, "The world is firmly established; it cannot be shaken (HCSB)." The problem with trying to wrest a geocentric claim from such a fragment is that it takes the words out of their context (lyrics in a song honoring God's attributes; the song isn't even about the earth) and attempts to use them as a treatise on cosmology. Such misappropriation leads to errant claims about meaning. Meaning can also be skewed by stringing miscellaneous scriptural snippets together with innovative explanations. For an interesting discussion regarding one man's journey from a viewpoint conditioned in this manner to a more Biblically based perspective, read "Nobody Is Getting Left Behind," by Zack Hunt.
The first step Pier Press® took in attempting to help remedy these kinds of concerns was the release of Which Good Book? An Impartial Guide to Choosing a Bible Translation. Through a series of questions, this guide leads readers through a process designed to identify the translation that is best suited to their needs. Along the way, people gain an understanding of the differences among contemporary versions of the Bible. The questions attempt to avoid advocating for any particular Bible version, and the answers lead to suggestions drawn from a list of more than thirty translations.
Identifying a useful Bible translation isn't enough, however. To learn what the Bible actually says, a person must read it. Walk with Matthew is the first in a Pier Press® series of Bible study journals designed to facilitate a personal encounter with the Biblical texts. The journal offers 86 sequential readings designed to present the entire Gospel of Matthew in context. Prompts encourage journal users to Write about each passage, Analyze its content, Listen prayerfully, and Keep notes regarding insights. Walk with John, the next journal in this series, is currently in production. Walk with Mark and Walk with Luke will round out a set of journals focused on the text within the four Gospels.
With this foundation established, Pier Press® will move forward into the arena where science and spirit meet. You can stay in touch by reading future blog entries in Pier Perspectives, subscribing to Observations: A Newsletter from Pier Press®, or liking our Facebook page.