Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Speaking Biblically is Speaking Theologically

John Webster offers a very precise way to conceive of what 'Biblical Reasoning' is. He does so in a way that sees Scripture as the final point of authority and witness through which we encounter the living God in Christ by the Holy Spirit's inspiration of the text of Scripture. Here is what Webster writes:

Christian theology is biblical reasoning, in which human intelligence responds to the intelligible divine Word spoken through the prophets and apostles. This conception of theology rests upon an ontology and teleology of Scripture and reason, shaped by an understanding of their place in the divine economy in which God establishes fellowship with human creatures, including the rational fellowship of which Christian theology is an instance. The divine economy, grounded in God's immanent life, unfolds as a history in which human creatures are summoned to know and love God. This history is redemptive and revelatory. The revelation takes form in the embassy of the prophets and apostles, superintended by the Spirit. Reason, corrupted by sin, is renewed by divine grace and participates in redeemed existence. Christian theology is the redeemed intellect's apprehension of God's address through his scriptural ambassadors, and takes the form of exegetical and dogmatic reasoning. [John Webster, ATR/90:4, 733]

One of my concerns is that too many Evangelical (Fundyish type, Conservative) Christians presume that they don't talk or think theologically; instead they talk and think, Biblically. But this is to engage in a false dichotomy. The second anyone begins to engage Scripture through their voice; they have engaged Scripture theo-logically. In other words, even the finest exegetes in the world must engage Scripture, Theo-logically. That is, we can do all of our syntactical analyses, lexical analyses, narratival analyses, literary analyses, etc; but the moment we seek to provide a cogencey and coherency to the findings and implications of said analyses we are reflecting on God's Word, theo-logically. We are doing this, in part, because we have already been brought into a gracious relationship of communion with God through union with Christ. So he has already brought us into his divine-human life resulting in a capacity and desire (on our part) to articulate and seek to understand what it is that he has communicated to us through his given Word through Scripture for us.

In short: To speak Biblically, is to speak Theologically; this is an inescapable reality because the ontology (or being) of Scripture has its location in Christ---and to be 'in Christ' is under the subheading of christology, and we all know that christology is a Christian Dogmatic or Systematic Theological category; and it is only 'After christology' that we have the placement of Scripture, not before. In other words, a doctrine of Scripture is a highly charged theological category in and of itself; we cannot abstract that out of its proper theological placement if we are going to truly going to engage Scripture as it ought to be---that is, as a Theological communication of which we've been taken up into in and through Christ by the Holy Spirit.

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