Eat This Book 2.0

I am still making my way through Eugene Peterson’s Eat This Book. Earlier, I wrote about the first three chapters, and in this post, I’ll reflect on the last couple chapters of part one.

In chapter four, Peterson talks about story and suggests, “Story is the primary verbal means of bringing God’s Word to us” (40). Peterson writes, “Story doesn’t just tell us something and leave it there, it invites our participation” (40).

This has implications for preaching, of course. Since the Scriptures are primarily story (narrative), then preaching should be storytelling.

Peterson rounds out the chapter by discussing exegesis, which he describes as “focused attention, asking questions, sorting through possible meanings. Exegesis is rigorous, disciplined, intellectual work” (50). Peterson writes, “exegesis is an act of love. It loves the one who speaks the words enough to want to get the words right” (55).

But exegesis does not mean mastering the text, it means submitting to it as it is given to us. Exegesis doesn’t take charge of the text and impose superior knowledge on it; it enters the world of the text and lets the text “read” us. Exegesis is an act of sustained humility: There is so much about this text that I don’t know, that I will never know. (57)

Exegesis isn’t just for preachers and teachers, it’s for all disciples (i.e., students). This section challenges me to be a better student of God’s Word. Peterson writes, “All our masters in spirituality were and are master exegetes” (50).

As part one of the book nears an end, Peterson discusses the difficulty of reading the Bible. He notes, “eating the Bible gave John a stomachache” (63). That is, “There are words in this book that are difficult to digest” (64).

But it is not just the hard sayings, it is the way the Bible comes to us. There are moments when it strikes us as totally strange, impossible to fit into our scheme of thinking and living. We try our best to domesticate this revelation, to fit it into our version of the way we would like things to be. (65)

The Bible is the most comforting book; it is also the most discomfiting book. Eat this book; it will be sweet as honey in your mouth; but it will also be bitter to your stomach. You can’t reduce this book to what you can handle; you can’t domesticate this book to what you are comfortable with. You can’t make it your toy poodle, trained to respond to your commands. (66)

Peterson concludes this section with good advice …

Eat this book, but also have a well-ctocked cupboard of Alka-Seltzer and Pepto-Bismol at hand. (66)

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