Earlier this year, in April, I presented a Paper (with the same title as above) at the Society of Vineyard Scholars conference in Columbus, OH. as part of a panel discussion on Hermeneutics. Specifically,the topic was The Authority of God in Scripture. Because the session was intentionally heavily weighted toward the Q&A/Discussion/Interaction, I was limited to a 5 minute presentation. That means my paper was really short (as in 2 pages). Bible scholars are not normally known for their brevity, so what I would like to do is present that list of ten things here, and then take a little more time to flesh out each one in some more detail in future posts in the coming weeks.
If my research thus far has shown me anything it is that we (myself included), the evangelical church (of which I consider the Vineyard a part) have largely been reading/using the Bible in a number of ways are just plain wrong, are not in line with how God intended it (or how He gave it to us), and therefore do not treat the scriptures appropriately as God’s authoritative revelation to humankind. So here goes nothing:
- The Bible is not a diet book, a dating manual, nor a set of bullets in a PowerPoint brief “from the Lord.”
- The Bible is literature and should thus be read as law, poetry, narrative, theological history, apocalyptic, etc.
- The Bible is story. This includes both individual stories in the varying “books” of the Bible, as well as an underlying story of God’s plan for redemption of creation (a.k.a. redemptive history).
- Radical Biblicism is actually a bad thing!
- Proof-texting is a bad habit that we need to break ourselves of. Simply citing chapter and verse does not end any theological/biblical argument!
- When we systematize the Bible, or pick and choose verses from its diversity for a “topical teaching” we deceive ourselves if we believe that we have somehow improved upon the Bible from the form that God actually gave it to us in. Prior to the late eighteenth century Systematic Theology did not exist as a separate discipline from Biblical Studies. For most of the history of the church the study of the Bible was the study of theology.
- Single column text, normal paragraph formatting/layout and, dare I say it, removing verse numbering from our Bibles will go a long way toward helping people to read the Bible as if it were actually a real book!
- The church and Christian Academia need to stop viewing each other as mortal enemies. The Christian academy needs to stop bashing the church as a bunch of caveman fundamentalists who know nothing about the Bible and assume their rightful place in assisting the church in its function of fulfilling the Great Commission. The church of Jesus needs to stop viewing the Evangelical academy as a bunch of flaming liberal heretics who don’t “believe the Bible” and may not even be truly “saved” and instead use the academy as a valuable resource which supports the mission of the kingdom of God.
- Christological interpretation is an important key. Whereas many Biblicists seem to border on being guilty of Bibliolatry.
- Recapture a rigorous commitment to the critical role of the Holy Spirit in exegesis and hermeneutics.
It is my conviction that when we read the Bible we should be expecting to encounter the God of scripture! And an encounter with God is, by it’s very nature, a transformational experience. So, if we’re reading the Bible, but not being transformed by it, we should be asking why? So I close with this quote from New Testament scholar Gordon Fee, which came about as a result of his experience in writing his commentary on Philippians in 1994:
“as I exegeted the text so as to articulate its meaning for the sake of others in the church, I was often myself so overcome by the power of the Word that I was brought to tears, to joy, to prayer, to praise.” (from Exegesis and Spirituality: Completing the Circle)
Until next time my friends, when we’ll talk about “The Bible as a Manual” approach to reading, using (and perhaps abusing) scripture…