Friday, April 1, 2011

The Problem of Reading Scripture

   "In the beginning was the Word...And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth." (John 1:1, 1:14, NASB) In our day, the Word is no longer allowed to be flesh, to be incarnated. We have taken the life-giving spirit out of it, turning it into dead words. We enter into a mis-understanding when we have a "rationalist view of the "teaching" of Jesus as something which can be understood apart from the Person (of Christ) altogether." (pg. 276)  We reduce the words of Jesus into mere words by rationalizing them and saying that he was "one of the many religious teachers who proclaim eternal religious truths." (pg. 276) or that Jesus "was "the first" to perceive and to teach or "the first" to do so "in power and purity"." (pg. 276) 

   Even though in the Evangelical Church today we do not want to admit that Jesus was just the first to say such things, we want to run His sayings through a rationalistic rubric and figure out if they hold any validity in the world today. We do this also by transferring His words into a "doctrinaire kind of theology." (pg. 278) We become "concerned with an "ethic of Jesus", a system of requirements, which exist in themselves in timeless validity." (pg. 278) In short, we make the Christian Faith about Morality and Law, what we have to do to fulfill a Divine Categorical Imperative, so that we can have a "better righteousness" (pg. 278) or more piety. 

   However, when we read the Scriptures, we should not try to extract a truth, an ethic or a system of morality. We should read the Scriptures as a personal communication of a Person. "No saying is based -as in the case of "eternal truths" - in itself, but every statement is related to Him, the Speaker." (pg. 277) And not only did the words of Jesus "not only proclaim this coming Kingdom of God, at the same time He inaugurated this new age and represented it in His own Person." (pg. 298-299) 

   When we try to extract "eternal truths" or wisdom from the Scriptures, we are extracting God from the Scriptures. It is no longer the Word of God that we are reading, but the word of man. 


  1. This is difficult. We like doctrine, and we're suspicious of experience. (To quote Dr. Gary Meadors, "You can't bifurcate the two!") We are so rational, and we want scripture to match that... we want it to make sense in our head, and that's the only experience we're comfortable with. I've heard lots of explanations for that -- people blame it on the Greeks, on the Reformers, on a male-dominated society -- but whatever it is, we're cut off from a big part of the life of God.

    At least, that's what I'm getting from this post...

  2. Pam-
    There is a lot of blame to go around, but I think that the worst part is that we don't understand how to be fully human, that is rational and emotional, without either side dominating the conversation. It's a tough problem, but something that needs to be addressed.