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Dark Knight Illustration

(c) Brandon Schaefer

In his book Life Together Bonhoeffer makes some comments about personal Bible reading and Bible reading in smaller groups and families. He believes that the tendency to read smaller and smaller portions of scripture is very dangerous. Minimum, for Bonhoeffer, is for people to be reading 1 chapter of the Old Testament and at least half a chapter from the New both morning and evening. His grounds for this view isn’t really any sort of legalism but is instead based on the absolute importance of Scripture.

I’m not really one for prescribing exactly how much and how often and such details. But his challenge to us about the place of God’s Word in our lives and in our hearts is a helpful one. Whether you agree with the specifics or not, his reasoning is solid and his challenge to us is, as always, blistering. Here’s his defense of this practice of at least 3 chapters of Scripture read per day:

“When the practice is first tried, of course, most people will find even this modest measure too much and will offer resistence. It will be objected that it is impossible to take in and retain such an abundance of ideas and associations, that it even shows disrespect for God’s Word to read more than one can seriously assimilate. These objections will cause us quite readily to content ourselves again with reading only verses.

“In truth, however, there lurks in this attitude a grave error. If it is really true that it is hard for us, as adult Christians, to comprehend even a chapter of the Old Testament in sequence, then this can only fill us with profound shame; what kind of testimony is that to our knowledge of the Scriptures and all our previous reading of them? If we were familiar with the substance of what we read we should be able to follow a chapter without difficulty, especially if we have an open Bible in our hands and participate in the reading. But, of course, we must admit that the Scriptures are still largely unkown to us. Can the realization of our fault, our ignorance of the Word of God, have any other consequence than that we should earnestly and faithfully retrieve what has been neglected? And should not ministers be the very first to get to work at this point?

“[…] Not only the young Christian but also the adult Christian will complain that the Scripture reading is often too long for him and that much therein he does not understand. To this it must be said that for the mature Christian every Scripture reading will be ‘too long’, even the shortest one.

“[…] We must learn to know the Scriptures again, as the Reformers and our fathers knew them. We must not grudge the time and the work that it takes. We must know the Sriptures first and foremost for the sake of our salvation. […] But one who will not learn to handle the Bible for himself is not an evangelical Christian.”

                          Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together, pp. 36-37 + 39