Monday, August 13, 2018

1. Reading the Bible Experientially (Keener)

1. I am reading Craig Keener's recent book, Spirit Hermeneutics: Reading Scripture in Light of Pentecost. Last week I read the introduction.


This week I read chapter 1: Reading Experientially.

The bottom line of this chapter is that the Bible is not merely a historical document to investigate but Scripture meant to have an experiential impact on us. An atheist might read it in the former way, but a Christian will also read it in the latter way. "As Christians, we read the Bible with personal faith" (24).

2. So the biblical narratives include both positive and negative models for our lives. Indeed, ancient historians wrote history with this goal in mind. [So a Fee and Stuart are overly modernist to see the biblical narratives as mere descriptions of what happened.] Paul certainly read the stories of the OT as full of models for his day.

"By experiential reading, I mean believing to the depths of our being what we find in the text" (25). I don't think Keener is talking here about believing the factual bits of the text, although he certainly has a bias to do so. He means that the experiences of the text are possibilities for us as well as they were for the original characters in the stories. He is not primarily talking about feeling here but "faith and the action that it demands."

"The most distinctive contribution of classical Pentecostalism to the global church has been the restoration of the full slate of spiritual gifts as an experiential presupposition from which we read Scripture" (26). A presuppositionless approach to the text is impossible. Keener wants us to understand that there are experiential "presuppositions" to the biblical texts in addition to the more often emphasized intellectual ones.

"At its best, Pentecostal spirituality is about living out a dynamic relationship with God" (29). Surely it is the same for Wesleyans.

3. Most of the rest of the chapter presents three points: 1) experiential readings of the Bible are inevitable, 2) they are desirable, and 3) they are biblical.

In the first section, we have perhaps a foreshadowing. He likes to think of "fuller meanings" of Scripture as application. The distinction is at least helpful between the present reception of the text's message from the way its ideal original recipients might have read it.

"Inductive study of the Bible on its own terms... uncovers more information in the long run than coming to the Bible with our questions (especially if a pastor is starting to prepare a sermon the night before he or she will be preaching it!)" (31). A basic point he is making here is that long term study yields more in the long run than study on the occasion of need.

4. His point that experiential reading is desirable dives into the fact that "psalms by their very genre invite us to do more than study them: they invite us to pray them, sing them, or use them as models to jumpstart our own prayers" (32). Similarly, the Gospel of John is not merely writing to record but for his audience as well. Indeed, 1 John tells its audience to live out what Jesus tells his disciples not to do. Luke also parallels the actions of Jesus in Luke with the actions of the apostles in Acts.

"Emotion, then, is not foreign to Scripture" (36). The fruit of the Spirit is experiential.

5. There are of course one time events in Scripture that were not meant to be repeated.

Other interesting tidbits:
  • "Although many of the debates about outpourings of the Spirit to Acts understandably focus on individual Christian experience, Luke's narratives focus on corporate outpourings--perhaps something like what American church historians call revivals" (23).
  • "Pure naturalism allows no miracles; some supernaturalists have reduced God to a formula that treats miracles as automatic if given conditions are met" (28).

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