Reading Together

Dr. John Inscore Essick

The discipline of reading is one of the primary vows taken by students upon entering the community of learners at the Baptist Seminary of Kentucky. To be clear, we (students and professors) who gather regularly for study are not bound to texts by means of oaths or signatures but by a shared conviction that faithful witness to Jesus Christ necessarily includes the habit of reading together. We are in our tenth year of reading together as a community of learners, and here are a just a few of the ways the experience has been revelatory.

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Reading together maps our world. That the Word of God became flesh and lived among us suggests—among other things—that God and God’s creation are texts to be read. To read together, then, is to map ourselves within the text that God has written. Reading together has helped us to recognize and locate our own lives and the lives of others as we explore together the life of God.

Reading together is a public practice. For those desiring to live, learn, and thrive in a community of learners, reading can not simply be a private endeavor. We are convinced that all reading—regardless of whether it is done well or poorly—shapes our life together.

Reading together is an act of dissent. There is only God’s story. A community committed to reading together is itself a form of resistance to the alternative scripts we might perform. Reading together is an aid in resisting our strong attraction to any and all human attempts at writing stories.

Reading together is an act of eschatalogical patience. Christians are a people who have time to read together because of Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, and ascension. We have learned in reading together how better to attend to one another in our common pursuit of knowledge and understanding. Reading together teaches us to wait on others and to allow others to wait on us.

Reading together is participation in the communion of saints. Reading together has strengthened our desire and ability to discern the nature of the life we share with those who live on the other side of death. We are learning something of how “the living faith of the dead” is received and transmitted as we gather with all the saints—living and dead—to read.