Today I read a chapter by Dale Martin in a volume co-edited by Bart Ehrman and Daniel Wallace called The Reliability of the New Testament. His chapter is called "The Necessity of a Theology of Scripture."
Let me just say that I am frequently impressed with Martin's work. I don't think I introduced myself to him in 1995 when he was at Tübingen on sabbatical and I was there working on my dissertation. He was working at that time on what I consider a tour de force on 1 Corinthians, The Corinthian Body. His work in that book on our presuppositions about the soul were really paradigm-changing for me.
Perhaps the sentence that captures his chapter in Reliability best for me is this one: "Just as the church is embodied in particular, visible, physical groups of people but must not be identified with any of those groups or even with all those groups gathered together, so scripture is embodied in particular texts, manuscripts, editions, and translations but cannot be identified with any of them, including the imagined 'original autographs'" (88). This may seem vague, so let me give a few more quotes.
"In the modern world since the dominance of the printing press, we are used to thinking that there is one right edition of every document, and that in most cases we (or at least the experts) can produce it. Realizing that Christian scripture cannot be so published--that no editor or group of editors can deliver 'the' right version, edition, or translation--may surprise modern people, but that is a reflection of the confusion about texts and textuality befogging modern people. It is also a result of the fact that most modern people, including most Christians, are living with what is an immature and untrained theology of scripture" (87).
He goes on: "the Bible isn't scripture simply in and of itself. It is scripture, the word of God, when it is read in faith by the leading of the Holy Spirit." He certainly is not opposed to historical readings of the Bible. He just thinks they are vastly incomplete when we are trying to talk about the Bible as Christian Scripture.
It goes without saying that Martin believes that if our faith is focused on being able to know the precise wording of the text, we're way off the mark. But he's saying much more than that. He's saying the whole theology of Scripture that pushes in this direction is way off.
I won't go into much detail. He prefers a theology of Scripture that sees us "entering a space where our Christian imaginations may be informed, reshaped, even surprised by the place scripture becomes for us" (90). He thinks models of the Bible as an "answer book" or a "user's manual" or even as an "authority" are incredibly vague and thus inadequate. The model of the Bible as the narrative of God's people comes closer for him, but he prefers his "space" analogy.
He ends with some interesting thoughts. He quotes Elizabeth Johnson of Columbia Theological Seminary as saying, "the problem with evangelicals is that they don't have enough faith in God" (92). He says, "The text won't save us. God will save us." And finally, "Ehrman allowed textual criticism to destroy his faith in scripture because he had an inadequate theology of scripture" (93).