Monday, June 06, 2005

The Nature of Scriptural Faith

In search of a method to use Scripture as a basis for Christian theology, ethics and praxis, many Scholars have sought a defining model to describe it (the model of course then shows how one should use it). Others have looked at the individual literary genres and have established an appropriate use according to genre. These approaches have yielded important results and there is something to say for them both. But i wish at this stage to persue another avenue.

My theory is that what will provide the key is not an understanding of Scripture itself, but of Scriptural faith. The notion of "Scriptural faith" of course implies canonical unity and thus I presuppose what needs to be established. But this is not a problem as the sort of unity presupposed is soon varified (this unity is found in a 'story', and that both the Old Testament and the New bear witness to a single faith which is attatched to this story, albiet one that undergoes significant developments at various stages in the story). What then do I mean by "Scriptural faith"? I can mean two different things, and hope that context will make clear which one in each instance. I can mean either the Christian faith as seen in the NT, rightly understood (the story from as far as it has gone), or a specific place in the story to which a specific work in Scripture belongs, when it originated.

An understanding of this "Scriptural faith" (from the end), I propose, will show what role Scripture should play within that faith to which we wish to align ourselves. Scripture is itself a product of the faith (at its various stages), although it subsequently acts to sustain it. The reality to which it points and the faith that is a response to this reality are necessarily prior to Scripture. And so if we are to understand what role Scripture should play, what role it was meant to play, then we must understand the faith. This of course means that a peice of Scripture from a different stage in the story than our own may not fulfill the same role it did during its own stage. This of course depends on its purpose, and what subsequent developments have taken place in the story. So attention to the genre of texts remains integral even in the basic framework of this method. For example, an Old Testament narrative that witnessed to a significant evet (e.g. Gen 12 Abrahams call), still does so, lathough perhaps with less significance. But Instruction such as that given at Mt Sinai (Exodus 18 the Law), is no longer binding (Gal; Rom).

Scriptural faith of course can only be accessed in Scripture, and so almost ironically, an understanding of the nature of Scripture provides the key to undertanding the faith. The literary forms that it takes will be appropriate to the nature of the faith that it witnesses to and sustains. Thus the many narratives that we find show that the faith which Scripture sustains (at all its stages) is one in which these stories are important, if not integral.

And this proves to be true. The faith of the New Testament (and of the Old) is characterized by a story, a story which makes sense of all reality. But this is not mere myth; this story is rooted in history, Gods actions in the world to redeem his fallen creation. As such, the content of the faith cannot be reduced to propositions, to timeless truths. It has an irreducible ‘narrative core’, reflected in the centrality of narrative to the Canon.

That this faith is characterized by story means that first of all we must embrace this particular story. Because it is a story which explains all of reality, gives meaning to the world and to history, to embrace this story is to 'live within it', to understand the world according to it. Secondly it means that this story mst remain central to our faith, we cannot settle for statements of faith that strip 'truth' and 'meaning' from their historucal framework where they are truly real. Finally it means that we must live from within our stage in the story, and make use of the works of Scripture according to our relation to there stage and role within that stage.


Sean du Toit said...

This is very interesting! Could you email me it all as a coherent whole, so that I don't have to read it in sections? I'm too lazy to do otherwise?

Thanks dawg... How's the party prep?

eddie said...

I would but right now it doesnt exist as anything more than sections. Check your email for a copy of all my notes though.

Well ah... everythings going great. 31 days to go!