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You Can’t Understand the Bible if You Don’t Love Poetry

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The Bible is more than an instruction manual, argues Matt Mullins in this talk at Wisdom Forum: The Good Life. Here are some excerpts of his talk (edited for clarity).

Poems open things up, rather than tying things up.

Dr. Mullins’ provocative claim.

“I want to cast a vision for how we can become better readers. I’m going to do so by making a claim that I have found to be a little provocative in my experience as a literature professor at a seminary. Here’s the claim, so that you won’t miss it: You can’t understand the Bible if you don’t love poetry. It’s one thing to imagine the scriptures as an instruction manual for living the good life, but its quite another to live the good life because you love the scriptures. Most of us have, I think, an instruction manual view of the Bible. I’d actually argue that this attitude prevents us from understanding the book because it prevents us maybe from loving it.”

Why it’s not a good idea to hate poetry.

“The hatred of poetry presents a serious problem for Christians who want to pursue the good life. After all, the most direct revelation of the good life we have is the Bible – and, as it turns out, about one third of the Bible is poetry. If we hate poetry, then it follows that we might actually hate a significant portion of the Bible. That’s not even the worst part. You probably don’t even realize that you hate the Bible because you think of it so thoroughly as an instruction manual that the arrangement of some of the words into poems probably doesn’t even register. So, in other words, you might hate the Bible and not really even know it.”

On experiencing God’s love in scripture.

“You should want to read the Bible not only to learn information about who God is, but also to experience, in the reading, his love. To feel his fatherly strength of comfort, reproof and protection.”

You should want to read the Bible not only to learn information about who God is, but also to experience, in the reading, his love.

This article includes excerpts of Matt Mullins’ talk at Wisdom Forum: The Good Life.

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Matthew Mullins

Matthew Mullins is Assistant Professor of English and History of Ideas at The College at Southeastern and the author of "Postmodernism in Pieces" (2016).

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