Krish Kandiah starts this book off with an analogy that I think perfectly illustrates one problem in American Christianity. He tells of backing over his laptop case (mistaking it for a snowdrift). “[T]here are certain advantages to flattening things,” he says, noting that it makes packing easier, is kinder on the environment, etc. “But flattening can also mean that the purpose, functionality, and shear beauty of things get utterly and fatally destroyed.”
Kandiah notes that we often do this to the Bible. I say “we” because I’m talking about preachers and teachers, and I am both at various times. I’m sure that I’ve done this without realizing it. We approach Scripture with a goal to wring a 30-minute, 3-point sermon out of a passage. We often approach Scripture with a topic already in mind, and simply seek a passage, verse, or even part of a verse that will serve as a jumping-off point for our rant against our favorite pet peeve. And this makes it easy to transport and pack, but it destroys the purpose, functionality, and beauty of God’s Word.
The purpose of Route 66 is to help all of us (and now “us” is all Christians) to understand the Bible as a book of books, unified in purpose and theme but diverse in style. Kandiah takes eight different literary genres (narrative, law, psalms, wisdom, prophetic, gospels, epistles, and apocalyptic) and examines how each is used in the Bible — and what impact it has on how we should approach the text.
I like this hermeneutical approach; I think it is far more honest with Scriptures. If we believe that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant word of God, then we have to look not only at what He inspired to be written, but how He inspired it to be written. He used poetry, history, narrative, etc. for a reason, and we are being dishonest if we ignore the literary genre just because it doesn’t fit in with our own preconceptions of a passage.
More importantly, Kandiah takes each of these genres and shows how the Bible uses it to make the passages relevant for our lives today. We really are “navigating life with the Bible.” We see the Bible as a book that had meaning for the people who wrote it and first read it, AND as a book that has meaning for us today, because of how it was written. Rather than flatten the Bible out so it fits the container we want to put it in, the Bible is allowed to be the book God intended it to be in the first place.