"There is in Celtic mythology the notion of 'thin places' in the universe, where the visible and the invisible world come into their closest proximity. To seek such places is the vocation of the wise and good, and those who find them find the clearest communication between the temporal and the eternal. Monasteries and holy places were meant to be founded at such spots to increase the likelihood of a transcendental communication. These thin places were threshold places, from the Latin limen, which can mean a border or frontier place where two worlds meet and where one has the possibility of communicating with the other. In Celtic studies the phrase can refer to places that stand at the border between the spiritual and temporal realms, and between people gifted with supernatural gifts in the mundane world and those living on the border.
"Perhaps we can adapt the concept of such thin places to the experience that people are likely to have as they encounter suffering, joy, and mystery, and seek in some fashion to make sense of that encounter. If we think of these encounters as the ultimate thin places of human experience, and of religion as a way of talking and thinking about the encounters, we might do very well to think of the Bible as our guide through the thin places, and as providing us with a record of how our ancestors coped with their encounters, and guidance beyond their particular situation which may be useful in ours. Contrary to the efforts and assumptions of many, the Bible is not a systematic book. It is not a doctrinal handbook or a systematic theology, nor is it a comprehensive history or a compendium of morals and ethics. To argue that it is any of these is to make the Bible conform to an extra-biblical set of convictions and assumptions, and to make it pass a test of theological orthodoxy of which it is not capable. Doctrines of inerrancy and infallibility are merely modern human efforts to impose order both on scripture and on those who read it. These are what John Huxtable once called 'dogmatic vested interests,' designed to preserve as the word of God a particularly partisan way of looking at scripture. Such a way of reading the Bible is designed to support those interests, and they are 'found' in the Bible because they are brought to the Bible.
"There are principles and ideas that develop over time through the pages of scripture that make it possible for us to detect truths that transcend the contexts in which they are found, principles that go beyond captivity to a given situation, and which stand out like the mountains on the moon. Indeed, it is such normative teaching and such developing ideas and ideals that enable us to judge scriptural situation by scriptural principle, and thus, in order to be biblical, we are able to read scripture freed of the expectation that we must reproduce its every detail and circumstance. . . .
"If we are to think of scripture not so much as we would a book of history, theology, or philosophy, but as the human experience of the divine at the thin places of encounter, then perhaps we may enter into a book that is perhaps less elusive and more accessible than we might have at first been led to believe. If the Bible is understood to be the place where not only others long dead but we ourselves encounter those thin places of suffering, joy, and mystery, and the efforts to make sense and meaning of those encounters, then perhaps we have rescued it from the clutches of the experts and the specialists and placed it where it rightly belongs, namely in the hands of those who find themselves more religious than they thought."