This morning saw me going into the local school, where I am a governor and my daughter is a pupil, to help out one of the teachers with a lesson on 'The Bible' as part of their Religious Studies series on 'sacred texts'. The kids were 9 years old or so (Year 4/5) and I was there just to give a general overview as to why the Bible is so important, a bit about what is in it, and a bit of where it came from.
What struck me as i spoke to these interested, enthusiastic, thoughtful children was how complicated it is to try and explain things in simple terms when one has been 'theologically educated'. I knew that it would be a waste of time, and totally irrelevant, if I started talking about 'sources' or 'form criticism' or 'redaction' - things which so easily trip off my tongue when I talk to other Christians about Scriptural matters. In the end these things didn't matter, they wanted to know why I believe that the Bible is 'God's word' and why the Bible is important. All the other stuff is just fluff in that kind of context!
It made me think how even simplicity is complicated. I know there is so much more to the Bible than the simple statement 'it is God's word'. I couldn't talk about the councils that spent so much time putting together the canon of Scripture, or the scraps and scrolls from a multiplicity of sources compiled over hundreds of years, or the complications of translation from one thought process in one language (or two, Hebrew and Greek) to another. All I could do was do an 'unplugged' version of what is important about this amazing, challenging book upon which Christian life and faith is built.
This was immediately followed with a conversation about faith, life and (again) the Bible with someone else. Another excellent conversation, but one which made me realise my presuppositions and the background of Biblical criticism which inform my own viewpoint - and how unnecessary it is to go into those kind of details when someone just wants to read the Bible and see what is in it.
This isn't a rant against theological reflection, or an attempt to pretend that there isn't a lot more to looking at the Bible than just picking it up - just a reminder to self that getting back to basics is sometimes the only way to really get to grips with the serious stuff in scripture.