Over at Mark Byron's blog, I've found myself in a frustrating but intriguing discussion regarding the Bible, the Church and interpretation. Mark had posted some of his reflections on 1 Peter 1:14-16 focusing his attention on the last part of verse 16: "you shall be holy, for I am holy."
His posted ended with the resolution that "we're all going to screw up on an hourly basis, but our goal is to strive to be holy."
Someone then commented on that, saying, "What I find difficult about the Bible is that it tells you to do all kinds of things like this but it doesn't tell you how nor even exactly what it means."
Now, for me, this sentiment is *exactly* the problem I had when I was a Protestant. There was so much of the Bible that was either never talked about, or else nobody had any idea *how* to actually practice what it said to do. Not that we should be looking for "spiritual techniques" or a quick and easy way to circumvent the process of theosis, but I at least wanted a blueprint, a way of life that had existed since the Bible had been written. And I wanted to see examples of what it meant to be a Christian that actually produced real repentance, humility, miracles, and love for God and the whole cosmos.
The common answer to this problem is one I keep hearing (and it was posted by someone in the comments section as well). It was the "if you just read your Bible on your own and pray for the Holy Spirit's guidance, everything will work itself out" answer.
I have many problems with this answer, and I've posted about them before, but the foundational issue was summed up nicely by someone during a discussion at the Evangelical-Orthodox Group. This person said, "If someone expresses an interest in the Christian faith, the answer is invariably "read the Bible". Which, in my humble opinion, is like trying to teach people to sing by giving them a sheet of music."
I love that!
Analogy: If you want to learn out to play music well, you've got to join the orchestra. (And the best orchestra at that). But very rarely can you just sit at home, with a bunch of notes and books and become a world class musician. It could happen. But it would be the exception, and a huge one at that. It would not be the rule to follow. To become the best musician possible, one would need intense dedication, ascetic labors (like forgoing other activities and practicing for hours a day), as well as deep mentoring by someone who has already achieved some level of musical success etc....
That recipe sounds like the Orthodox way of life to me! Common liturgy, ascetical labors, sacraments, spiritual discipleship....*AND*, of course, the Bible. But it is a package deal.