"Oh, you conservative fundamentalists!"
"You are so anti-intellectual!"
"Just because I read the Bible LITERALLY? At least I have a relationship with God!"
Anyone tired of this seemingly endless stream of typecasting and "throwing the baby out with the bath water" mentality in learning [or failing to learn] from the appropriation of God's Word by different perspectives?
Each side has their biases and misreadings of scripture.
Read a great book by NT Wright on the Authority of Scripture. If you are tired of the Bible wars and need a fresh understanding of what the "Authority of Scripture" looks like - this is a refreshing perspective that moves beyond the unhelpful stereotyping of "conservative" and "liberal".
Wright lists several of the general ways in which they fail to admit their own inadequacies. Ofcourse, there is plenty more than that - he spends most of the book clarifying what he means as the Authority of Scripture from a biblcal narrative perspective since many people fail to recognize that this is "shorthand" for a much more detailed and nuanced definition.
He also outlines a brief history of how scripture was generally interpreted within the church community throughout the centuries which enables us to understand the role of tradition [that it is not equal to Scripture itself as those familiar with some Catholic hermeneutics or the Wesleyan Quadrilateral might be tempted to misconstrue it to be] and the role of "reason". Reason itself has changed in its meaning from centuries before to what it means today so Wright articulates this as well. Wright is a scholar but he is very accessible.
Basically, he addresses 3 Key Questions:
1. What makes the bible authoritative?
2. How can the bible be appropriately applied and understood?
3. How can its author [assuming we have approp applied and understood] be brought to bear on the church and the world?
Point: The bible is a way that God's Authority is exercised - it is THROUGH scripture [all authority is God's - Rom13.1, John 19.11, Matt 28.18, Phil 2.9-11, Isa 40-55, Rev 4-5]...
A sample of some pitfalls in [mis]reading scripture:
- Failing to recognize our biases - no one is objective.
- Worshipping the bible vs understanding it as a vehicle for the grand narrative
- Failing to recognize its Jewishness and its areas of continuity [the church's adoption into spiritual israel through Christ] and its areas of discontinuity [Paul grapples with this and the Jewish laws in the NT]
- Disregarding the context of the different "acts" in the narrative [Eden, Fall, Israel, Jesus, Church]-let alone the genre, author's intent, etc.-in understanding the scripture to our present lives, etc.
- Not a list of rules , commands but REALLY a STORY, a Narrative in which we participate in...
- Opens human imagination [within the stream of the narrative ofcourse] to participate and live wisley
To paraphrase Wright: "To rediscover who God is and His rule over and over. It is not info about God or true info alone... it is ACTIVE in bringing about renewal. The readers become actors in the story [pg. 30]."
He concludes on pg. 114 [following with 5 strategies to honor the authority of scripture]:
"'The Authority of Scripture' ... offers a picture of God's sovereign and saving plan for the entire cosmos, dramatically inaugurated by Jesus himself, and now to be implemented through the Spirit-led life of the church precisely as the scripture-reading community.
1. Totally contextual
2. Liturgically grounded
3. Privately studied
4. Refreshed by appropriate scholarship
5. Taught by accredited church leaders
Hopefully, this will move the discusssion forward about applying and understanding God's authority through His word as the scriptural community.
This study has reminded me of the unique power that God's Word has - thus to be careful as I read it. Careful meaning, humbly and not uncritically - open to varying perspectives - not to agree with but to be open to highlight my biases.
Not enough time. The ongoing argument for 99% of Christians who say they don't read the bible more throughly. We allocate time to what we value - just look at how much time I spend in coffee shops or the gym. Is God's Word not a change agent? I don't want to go to the gym - but I do it and feel great when i do. I don't like broccoli, but I feel better after I eat it so I eat it again. I value my health... and the One who gave me my physical capacities in the first place? Yup Erin, even when you don't feel like it - you will benefit, trust me.
As a volunteer shocked me recently with an obvious statement - himself being an agnostic all of his life and finally examing the evidence, becoming a Christian - he said:
"If there is a God, that's something to be excited about isn't it?"
Uh... YEAH! And if He has something to help us become more like Him, a participant in his movie of redemption... maybe I should take the time to go beyond a surfacey reading [not that a little "hit" like a devo is bad] to allow the story to penetrate my hardened "MTV-desensitized" will.
So that I am empowered to fully participate in His story the way He has always wanted me to - with the divine and revolutionary principles of grace, love and truth that REBEL against the spiritual status quo.
God has called his change agents to be changing as well. He made me to use my heroic desires and imagination as I encounter the world daily. But if I do not know HOW or WHY then I am like a martial artist who hasn't practiced for years - not as effective as I could be. People are desperate to know hope and renewal - ofcourse God offers the answer through the LIVING WORD Christ. Erin - step up to the dinner table - eat heavily and often.
I admit, I appreciate Wright's thoughts.
Check it out... great sermons and articles. www.ntwrightpage.com
Feel free to post comments - have you experienced frustrations in your own discussions with others regarding the authority of scripture?
How do you grapple with submmitting to the word of God? What areas in your life is it authoritative and what areas might you overlook its authority?
How has your tradition colored your lenses of God, reading His word? What are the benefits and the dangers of this tradition?