Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Getting Beyond Us-Them and the Bible

Something that would go a long way in allowing Christians to dialogue with each other instead of at each other is to come to terms on what Scripture actually is. As an Evangelical Christian (maybe you can relate), I have far too often been party to moments wherein a particular doctrinal topic is under consideration. Both sides, as Evangelical Christians, believe they have Scripture on their side; and thus each side appeals disparately to Scripture as their silver bullet (to win the argument, and substantiate their point). And yet, there is obviously a problem here; since both can provide apparent cogent and coherent intepretations of the same text which apparently favor their doctrinal point---then the question is: how do we adjudicate who is right and who is wrong? But, really, the question needs to step back further; we need to get to the first order issue prior to the second (which is where the debates and arguments and back-and-forths take place). The first order issue is to come to terms with what indeed Scripture is, and where it has its place relative to God and his communication to us through his Son by the Holy Spirit. While discerning this, at the same moment, we should realize that even articulating 'what' Scripture is and 'where' it is placed relative to God; won't end all debate (we'll just end up debating about Scripture's place). Nevertheless, this will help us to deal with deeper issues instead of secondary issues that at the end of the day have more to do with philosophy of history and literature rather than Jesus Christ. I understand that I am being rather oblique in this post (or vague), but I would like to continue to build on the trajectory that this post sets in the days and months to come. I was prompted to write this post because of John Webster; here's what I read, and here's what he wrote in this regard:

With respect to Scripture, for example, lack of clarity about the tasks of biblical interpretation (in which the tug-of-war between "historical" and "theological" interpretation is but one episode) is symptomatic of the absence of shared conceptions of the nature of Scripture and of the tasks which it undertakes in the divine economy. The absence of bibliology, and the widespread assumption that a doctrine of Scripture is exegetically and hermeneutically otiose, cannot be compensated for by further refinement of strategies of interpretation. We need to figure out what the text is in order to figure out what to do with it; and we determine what Scripture is by understanding its role in God's self-communication to creatures. John Webster, ATR/90:4, 734-35.

The short answer is that Scripture is about Jesus; it is from Jesus, given by Jesus, and takes us beyond itself to its reality in Jesus. This will reframe multiple things, like; 1) Ontology of Scripture, 2) Hermeneutics 3) Biblical Theological Grammar, 4) Usage of Scripture, 5) Christian Spirituality/Doxology, 6) etc. 


  1. Couldn't agree more Bobby. Anxious to see some more posts on this topic.

  2. I think this is incredibly important. Though I dont buy everything within the so-called Yale school, I have always appreciated David Kelsey's claim that our doctrine of God and our understanding of scripture are mutually implicative, and modifications in one will modify the other. I honestly think grasping this principle, or something like it, is one of the most major issues that needs to be communicated in churches, especially ones with a "its just me and the bible" mentality.

    1. Derrick,

      I have only read bits and pieces from Kelsey here and there, but I understand his basic trajectory and informing voices; and the principle you note from him is one I agree with as well. I have a quote from John Webster (which I'll post some time) that offers a critique of the Yale school (in particular, Lindbeck and Frei); noting that they don't go far enough in their grounding of Scripture---that is, he notes that they fail to take the necessary step of grounding an ontology of scripture in the life of God's communicative act in Christ for us; instead, as he notes, they ground Scripture in the church's communicative activity which just doesn't quite cut the muster (and I agree with Webster). Yes, we definitely need to get past it's just me and my bible mentality! We just need to get past the "me" mentality in general ;-)!


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