The Bible in Today’s World

It was a very real honour and joy for the NRCBR and Newman University, yesterday (09/01/2020) to host the launch of the Birmingham diocese ‘The God who Speaks‘ programme for the Roman Catholic ‘Year of the Word (2020)‘.

The God who Speaks

The theme of the event was, ‘The God who Speaks: The Bible in Today’s World‘ and three talks that explored the (sometimes surprising) ways in which the Bible functions within the contemporary world.

Professor Susan Docherty (head of the Theology and Philosophy at Newman) extended a warm welcome to all and introduced the day.

The first talk was by Dr Richard Goode (senior lecturer in Theology) on the Bible in the social media world. This drew attention to the diverse uses of the Bible within public spaces and discussed how recent trends in the use of the Bible within the political arena reflect those within social media, suggesting not so much a decline in biblical literacy, but differences in its use. The session concluded with the challenge raised by extremist white nationalistic groups and their often overt use of the Bible to promote their ideology and message.

Richard Goode speaking about the Bible in the digital (social media) world. Image: Jim West

This was followed by a fascinating (and packed!) workshop led by David McLoughlin (Emeritus Fellow in Christian Theology, and Movement of Christian Workers). David helped us to read a number of the parables of Jesus in a new way that would help us to explore how they might relate to the world of 21st century work. David set each of the parables within their social and historical settings that allowed us to understand their ‘real world’ context of Roman-period Palestine and how that might relate to the contemporary working world.

David McLoughlin discussing the parables of Jesus and the world of work. Image: Jim West

At the midpoint, at the wine reception, Fleur Dorell (national co-ordinator for the CBCEW and Bible Society) officially launched the Birmingham diocese ‘The God who Speaks’ programme to mark the Roman Catholic ‘Year of the Word’ 2020. As well as introducing the various activities and events that are planned – and still in the planning – Fleur talked passionately about the importance of the Bible to Christian faith and the need for much closer engagement with the Bible and encouraging its wider use.

Fleur Dorell (Bible Society and CBCEW) launching ‘The God who Speaks’ programme. Image: Jim West
The launch of ‘The God who Speaks’ at Newman University. Image: Jim West
Jim West speaking on the Word that Abides. Image: Helen Ingram
Jim West introducing reception studies at the ‘God who Speaks’ event. Image: Hywel Clifford

The key note address was given by Dr Jim West (MingHua Theological College and Charles Sturt University). It was great to have Jim back with us and his illustrated lecture examined the way the Bible has been used and understood in no-textual ways, looking at a wide range of examples from art, music and film. The lecture raised a number of questions relating to the relationship between the Bible and different cultural arenas, and also the power of these interpretations on how the Bible is understood today. A very stimulating question and answer session included issues about the relationship between academic biblical studies and the church.

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