Wednesday, June 01, 2005

First post in nearly a month!

My research is coming along nicely, and its time to blog once more! I have just been reading over some of my notes (which I will soon post) and decided to blog the thoughts that are going through my mind at this point in my research.

I think that if we are going if we are going to respect what God has gifted us in Holy writ, this means letting it be what it is and do what it was meant to do, in all of its variety. Not everything is instruction, not everything is formulaic theology. This may mean that we take the ‘nature’ of the Bible as a whole as the key to what we should use it for and how we should use it. The specific works of Scripture[1] should also be used according to their ‘nature’.

Our need to ground every b
it of instruction, advice, and theology in Scripture (whether in various texts or on a ‘biblical trajectory’), I suspect betrays a certain insecurity, a ‘felt need’ to be absolutely certain about all things especially those pertaining to the Christian life. Although we must take our efforts to follow Jesus in the church and in the world (if we can make such a distinction) with utmost seriousness, the above activity leads to endless debates and arguments over Scripture and hermeneutical strategies. The felt need to ground all things in Scripture is also seen in our tendency to find what we have learnt elsewhere, our experience, reflected or talked about in the text. This activity often suppresses the texts own voice and we lose something of value.

As I wrote previously, near the beginning of my research but never blogged:
Does not our ‘raiding’ of the entire canon for principals and practice demonstrate our uncourageousness when it comes to loving one another? Does it not show our lack (or fear) of consulting, or I should rather say seeking the divine Spirit’s guidance on issues? What is the root of our desire which results in our “clawing” after passages for absolute certainty on all manner of theological, practical, and ethical issues? What are we afraid of? Are we becoming slaves to ‘law’ once again?

In the last sentence I am alluding to the apostle Paul’s discussion of the Mosaic Law and the Spirit. Although my position is shifting on what Paul was getting at in his discussion, at the time of writing I understood part of his argument (part. Gal. 5 & Rom.7-8) to be that those ‘in Christ’ should no longer be placed under the burden of the ‘written law’, but that through life in the Spirit, through ‘keeping in step with the Spirit’, they would fulfill the law anyway. I imagined that this line of thinking could be picked up and extended in relation to our use of Scripture. We have much instruction in Scripture, but we are plagued by problems of situational and cultural specificity. Taking a cue from Paul, we are not to put ourselves under all the instructions in Scripture in an authoritarian way, we are not to see every command as something we ‘must do’, and then tell people to do so. But rather by keeping close to God’s Spirit, we will end up acting along similar lines, but in ways appropriate to our situations and cultures. Paul himself seemed to possess a number of ‘governing principals’ such as love that he appropriated in different ways for different situations. At this point I am not sure that this reading of Paul can be sustained, so I let the thought rest for now.

Because of the above considerations however, I conclude that there are no shortcuts. We need: (1) the work of careful exegesis; (2) an understanding of Scripture as a whole, which I take to be a grand narrative; (3) and creative appropriation. I will say more about what I think is involved in ‘creative appropriate’ in a coming blog.

[1] I consciously use the word ‘works’ rather than ‘books’ because the latter reinforces the attitude that we can treat them all in the same way. They are not all books in the conventional sense. Although it is true that one can have a book of poetry (which may be used to refer to the Psalms), or a book of prophecy (with various collections of prophecy), possibly in the sense of an anthology, the NT letters (including the apocalypse) cannot rightly be referred to as books. To do so risks bringing to them various connotations which the word ‘book’ possesses, and which should not be imposed on these works.

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