So many of us have been conditioned to read the Bible in terms of our experience rather than in terms of the experience of the people in the Bible. If we don't hear God's voice today in special ways, we assume he is not speaking in special ways anymore. If we don't see miracles today, we assume he's not doing miracles anymore. Yet the Bible is filled with dreams, visions, miracles and many other supernatural experiences. Liberal churchgoers simply deny that these things ever happened. They say these stories are myths that were never meant to be taken literally, they were just meant to illustrate great theological truths.
Many conservative churchgoers are appalled anyone would ever read the Bible like this. They want nothing to do with the rationalistic unbelief of liberals. They are certain every miracle in the Bible took place just as it's recorded. Yet when it comes to applying the Bible to today's experience, many conservatives are filled with the same kind of unbelief as the liberals. For many orthodox Christians [and Christadelphians - Steve], the Bible is a book of abstract truths about God rather than a guide into the supernatural realm of God's power.
Two sad effects invariably result from reading the Bible in such a de-supernaturalizing manner. First, we experience very little of God's supernatural power. Why? Because we have neither the faith to pray for miracles nor the confidence that God can speak to us in any supernatural way. Why do we lack faith? Because our method of reading the Bible has taught us not to expect these things [my emphasis]. This leaves us with a moralistic version of Christianity that believes discipline is the key to the spiritual life.
Jack Deere notes that as a result of reading the Bible this way "we don't expect too much from God. And usually we get what we expect."
He goes on to write:
I was the pastor of a Bible church for a number of years. During that time I did not believe God spoke in any reliable way except through the Bible, nor did I believe he was doing miracles or healings today. My number one prescription for the people was, "Read your Bible every day". The most frequent confession I heard from my church members was, "I don't read my Bible".Still more to come.
It is hard to read a book every day that tells how God supernaturally intervenes in the daily lives of his children, and yet see no practical relevance for these supernatural phenomena in our present experience. Once the supernatural element is taken out of the Bible, it becomes merely a moralistic life guide. And God becomes a remote God who helps his people, but not very much [my emphasis].
The Bible is more than a theological treatise. It is a guide to dynamic encounters with a God who works wonders. The Bible was given to us that we might hear God's voice and respond to that voice with life-changing faith. Yet it is all too common for Bible-believing people to read the Bible without ever hearing that voice.
* Surprised by the Voice of God, Zondervan, 1996