Monday, September 23, 2013

How God Uses Scripture 2

continued from this morning
It is interesting to compare what individual passages of Scripture did originally with how they function within Christianity today. For one thing, it is doubtful that most if not all of the New Testament authors knew they were writing Scripture. The Corinthians, for example, felt perfectly free to question Paul's instructions, which they presumably would not have done with the Old Testament. Old Testament prophets felt a clarity that they were bringing the word of the Lord, but we can doubt that the authors of the Old Testament narratives felt the same way.  Indeed, the category of "Scripture" may not even have existed for them at the time.

N. T. Wright has suggested that worldviews have four components: 1) story, 2) symbol, 3) practices, and 4) answers to basic questions. [1] This delineation is at least more helpful than the usual approach to worldview that focuses only on the fourth element. James K. A. Smith has pushed the fundamental dynamics of our approach to the world even deeper by speaking of a Christian "imaginary." [2]  Rather than think of human beings as "thinking things," the notion of a social imaginary looks to a deeper part of us driving the way we look at the world.

I suspect that the default way Christians read the Bible today is as a single book from God to us. In and of itself, this approach implies that we have a tendency to read the books of the Bible differently than their first meanings. Assuming that God wants us to experience the Bible in this way today, it implies that God does certain things with Scripture today that are somewhat distinct from what he did with them originally.

Following Wright's lead, yes, the Bible now gives us a unified story that helps shape our sense of identity. [3] Unfortunately, the flexibility of language has allowed a myriad of Christian groups to interpret the story differently. Nevertheless, Christians can surely agree on some key features of the biblical story. God and Christ are king, to whom we all owe our allegiance. Christ is the solution to humanity's problem and he's not finished yet.

What does God mean this story to "do" to us as readers?  At the very least, he means to be our Lord and Father. He means to shape us into his servants and children. That leads us to the question of what practices he wishes to form in us. Here the New Testament is clear, he wishes to make us a loving people, people who love.

Yes, God also gives us answers to basic questions, but this is not the most important thing he does. Far more important is his shaping us into people who love each other and who submit to the lordship of Christ. Indeed, the answers he gave in Scripture were incarnated answers, answers couched in the thought categories of Scripture's ancient audiences. The task of re-presenting these answers in new times and places is never done.

[1] NT and the People of God

[2] Desiring the Kingdom. Language of imaginaries traces to Charles Taylor.

[3] The unity we see now gives distinct meanings to the biblical texts that they did not originally have. For example, the significance of the story of Adam is more prominent in most versions of the Christian story than Genesis 2-3 were for the majority of the biblical books.


Susan Moore said...

"For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account" (Hebrews 4: 12-13).
In spite of having been directly and miraculously healed by God, and having been both sick and then now healed in their midst for three years, because of the leadership team's continual rebellion and final, official denial of the Spirit's direct and miraculous workings in human lives nowadays, I left my church today.
Just wanted you to know.

Susan Moore said...

I only wrote 'Susan' once! Lol.
I dare not write it again.

Ken Schenck said...

Sorry to hear that!

Pastor Bob said...

The thinking that Luke could have just written what Paul might have preached at Mars Hill is very dangorus thinking. The same might be implied that Matthew, Mark and John could have just shared what they thouht Jesus said. This takes away from the Ispired Word of God for me and that is the danger here. I do enjoy your writings God Bless we need good educators.