Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Notes on Scripture 2

Continued from yesterday

... Our paradigm for reading Scripture shapes what we are supposed to do with or get from the Bible. Are these words for us or for people long since dead? Is the purpose of these words to inform us, to transform us, to command us? Our paradigms shape how we define the words and how we connect the content of the books together. They shape how we apply the words to our lives today.

In many cases, we will not have really asked ourselves these questions. More likely, we have inherited assumptions about how to read the Bible. We put these assumptions into practice without really thinking much about it. Our default, you might say, is to come to the Bible as "pre-modern" or unreflective readers.

This mode of reading may sound undesirable, because it assumes a certain lack of self-awareness in reading. However, I would argue that a reflective, Christian perspective on Scripture does not end up far from where most of us start out without thinking about it. If our spiritual intuitions are right, there is a good chance that we have been reading Scripture appropriately anyway.

3. What do I mean by spiritual intuitions? By spiritual intuitions I mean the intuitions we have that lie below the surface of our reading of the Bible, guiding the way we process the content of the Bible. An early Christian named Augustine (354-430) captured these intuitions well when he wrote that "you can come to the interpretation of these books of the Bible without anxiety if you fully understand that 'the goal of the commandment is love from a pure heart and a good conscience, as well as genuine faith' (1 Tim. 1:5). You can come without anxiety if you are bent on making your whole understanding of Scripture derive from the three graces of faith, hope, and love." [1]

Matthew 22:34-40 sets down the basic principle. All the commandments of Scripture are captured in the law of love. No legitimate application of Scripture can violate our love for God or our love for others. Numerous places in the New Testament lay down this rule (e.g., Rom. 13:10; Jas 2:8; 1 John 4:7-8). If we have this spiritual intuition and we always read Scripture with a view to loving God and our neighbor, we will not go wrong.

There is another intuition underlying this most fundamental one. This is the sense that God is more interested in who we are--our motivations and intentions--than in what we believe or what we do...

[1] Augustine, On Christian Doctrine 1.44 (I have paraphrased the quote).

1 comment:

Martin LaBar said...

The two posts map out some good signposts. Thanks.