One of the books we read in the Doctor of Ministry program at Asbury a few years ago was Shaped By the Word by M. Robert Mulholland. Mulholland challenges readers to move from an informational approach to reading Scripture to a formational approach.
An informational reading of Scripture tends to focus more on “doing” more than “being.” It’s more quantity oriented than quality oriented. Readers who approach Scripture for information come to Scripture on their own agenda, which hinders the reader from being changed by the text. This approach is more “analytical, critical, and judgmental” (52), and “characterized by a problem-solving mentality” (53). Obviously, this shouldn’t be the primary way we approach Scripture.
Formational reading focuses on quality more than quantity. The reader seeks to allow the passage to work in one’s life, and ultimately, to be mastered by the text. In this way, “the text becomes the subject of the reading relationship,” so that the reader may be “shaped by the text” (57). This requires humility, as we go to Scripture to be “shaped by the Word” and conformed to the image of Christ, allowing the “intrusive Word” to shape our lives.
The goal of reading Scripture is spiritual formation. Mulholland defines as “the shaping of our being in the image of Christ” (102). Mulholland describes it as “the process of being conformed to the image of Christ for the sake of others” (25).
Mulholland is passionate about helping readers allow their “word to be shaped by the Word of God” (37). When our word begins to be shaped by the Word, “our word will become the word God speaks us forth to be in the lives of others. Increasingly we will become God’s, spoken forth into the life of the world” (46).
Scripture is to be experienced. As we experience God’s Word, we are shaped by it in ways that lead to spiritual transformation!