Thank you for brilliant comments to last week's post, in which I raised the (not original question), what is the nature of Holy Scripture, given it is a set of writings with some very difficult-to-explain passages within it. A document which is somewhat human even as it is a document through which God has spoken and continues to speak to humanity.
If Scripture can be wrong in some of its statements (as I argued it is wrong about what it says about Cretans), does that raise the question whether we should be cautious about all its statements? (Answer, No. It's been read with scrutinizing eyes for thousands of years, and many statements stand up well.)
Does it raise the question, Should we its readers use it like a coal or diamond mine? Should we dig out of it a set of (true) propositions, evens a set of rules and laws to govern our lives? (Answer, Possibly. Many Christians in many churches through many centuries have derived from Scripture a large bunch of rules and regulations, as well as theological propositions).
Of course, Scripture as a coal or diamond mine of rules and propositions has been somewhat problematic. Most Christians drink alcohol, but some Christians, a whole denomination such as the Salvation Army beg to differ on what Scripture teaches on what we may drink. Ditto eating meat and the Seventh Day Adventists. Scripture is clear on X (so many think) and Scripture is far from clear on X (so some think).
Many Christians understand that you do not take everything literally in Scripture; but some things could or even should be taken literally. Then Christians differ on what the "some things" are - perhaps most famously, we differ on what Jesus meant when he said, with simple simplicity, "This [bread] is my body." Or, one of my favourite examples: get a group of Christians together for a Bible study, read the Story of the Rich Ruler from the Gospels, and see how many in the group take Jesus literally on what he says about giving away everything you have ...
The point (or one of the points) is that perhaps Scripture is best read as a set of writings which we engage with (as individuals, as study groups, as exegetical classes of students, as congregations attending to the read and proclaimed Word of God) as a message from God that we may discuss, debate even argue over but which we will not expect to overwhelm us with clarity such that we all suddenly agree. (Conversely, nor will we treat Scripture as a document which, when we cannot agree, we use as a reason to divide from one another).
Then, in the spirit of comments to the previous post here, what it means to "engage" with Scripture - as individuals, groups - is to allow God to speak to us in and through Scripture, allowing that word to shape and mould us as Christian disciples. Scripture as formation more than information. Or, perhaps better, Scripture to be read for Holy Spiritual transformation of our lives rather than for rules to behave by or propositions to believe in or facts to fill our minds.
It is not, by the way, that arguments and debates over Scripture signal we are reading Scripture wrongly or engaging with Scripture mistakenly. Scripture which provokes us to argument is also Scripture challenging us as to how we argue and with what attitude we treat our interlocutor.
In 1 Corinthians 11:18-19, Paul writes about divisions and factions in church and says:
"For, to begin with, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you; and to some extent I believe it. Indeed, there have to be factions among you, for only so will it become clear who among you are genuine."