To recap: this whole idea came to me while studying the many ways that PowerPoint is a Very Bad Thing™. The software encourages:
Simplifying topics and removing them from context. AND: Ordering (Hierarchically) and grouping topics in a way that may be artificial.
To which I say: Isn’t this the most common approach through which people are exposed to the Bible? Whenever I steel myself up and go through web boards related to people debating God’s views on sexuality, abortion, end of life rights, etc. the people who seem the most worked up have a very common method of quoting the Bible. It goes like this: Chapter:Verse. By that I mean they actually quote ONE verse! While I recognize the power of the Word in the Bible, and particularly the Gospels, I am also struck by the fact that God, the early church, all of the translators through the years, and every publisher since Gutenberg have all agreed that the Bible needed A LOT of words! To say it differently: complexity is not a vice, it’s a testament to our God who wants us to see and accept the WHOLE landscape. Those who would remove text in the Bible from its surrounding context and complexity can do a disservice to the very God that they are reaching out in love for. Let’s of course not forget the major element of context here… that the largest portion of the contents of the Bible issue forth from a civilization that existed from 4000 to 2000 years ago. Does it make the Bible irrelevant to us now? Of course not, but while we dedicatedly study the testament left to us of God and His people, shouldn’t we reach for more than the bullet-points? Would the God of light and truth want us to see anything but the big picture?
The other sin of PowerPoint creeps in through our old friend, the lectionary. (Though the lectionary sometimes does some very interesting lifting out of context as well.) But the more persistent side-effect here is in the grouping and ordering of things in sometimes artificial ways. I can’t find much info on when the idea of the lectionary came about, and I don’t have very specific examples to lift up here, but I would just ask us to think about the fact that our ancestors in the church went through all the trouble of writing down wonderful narratives in the Bible, and we now lift out pieces and group them with other pieces in a roughly “chronological” (by church year) way. But aren’t we actually just creating one of those odd “best-of” shows out material that stands so well on its own?
I guess what I’m saying is that I don’t really see a way to get around the fact that if you want to get into the Bible, you really just have to wade in. Simplifying, lifting, cliff-noting, reorganizing may get the Word engaged in small pieces of worship, but it doesn’t allow the reader access to the whole scope of God’s Word.