Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Authority and the Bible

Note: not the authority OF the Bible. Just pondering a couple of recent comments relating to how we interpret the text of Scripture - and, indeed, having digested Allert's book, about what we are to count as Scripture or not. I'm probably a bit weird in that I came to faith after having studied the Bible in a thoroughly Modern and critical way, so the academic stuff is where I come from. However, what I find, over time, is that in most respects my attitude towards Scripture becomes more conservative - but that is because I am more and more persuaded of the authority of the church community which gives to Scripture that authority. Yet my understanding of Scripture is inevitably mediated through all sorts of perspectives. When I say that I'm a bit wary of Marcus Borg, for example, I'm really saying that I find his perspective still driven by some academic concerns. In contrast, if I said I found Tom Wright's perspective congenial, I'm really saying something about him as much as about Scripture. I don't think it's possible to avoid this. Scripture isn't a neutral term and whilst I am as susceptible as anyone to an argument of 'Scripture says...' I don't think it's ultimately viable.

So far as I'm aware Scripture never says of itself that it is transparent and easily understood, whereas there is quite a lot in it to say that it is NOT transparent, and that discerning God is not a simple process. We are easily misled, mistaking doctrines of men for the Word of God, especially in the last few hundred years. I don't believe that Scripture is transparent in anything but the most trivial sense (ie we have an English translation, therefore we can read it), and I think the idea that it can be interpreted rightly by a solitary thinker is daft. We cannot escape the community of interpretation. So the questions of Scripture, wherever they come from, are really about which community you identify with. I will never know as much about the New Testament as Tom Wright - or Marcus Borg - but I don't think it's all that important. I am content to be part of a church which holds them in esteem. Ultimately I don't think the faith is about Scripture; it's about who Scripture testifies to. And as St Paul puts it 'I think I too have the mind of Christ'

Perhaps: this community's understanding of Scripture contains that which God is trying to teach me at this present time.

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