Saturday, September 13, 2008

What Is the Scriptures Usefulness?

The Scriptures are used by evangelicals as a way to understand God and his ways. The requirements of God are written in black and white and some, believe, are not debatable. But, are Scriptures a supernatural text that is absolute? Yes and No.

The Scripture cover over many years and are individual texts, written in different languages to many different contexts. There is no way of bringing a coherent whole to the text. Biblical scholars have sought to understand the different contexts of the individual writings and the individual authors of those writings. The social and political contexts are easier to ascertain than the author's intention, at times. What was the real 'mind-set" of Paul, for instance when he seems to speak out of both sides of his mouth about some issues? What was his "worldview? Is there a Christian "worldview"? I would say, no. There are Christian worldviewS, but not one worldview. Not only are there differences due to denominational emphasis, but there are also differences because of how one understands the text itself.

We can understand the text as inspired, just as any text that previenently shows forth God's glory through natural revelation. This means that the text is not inspired apart from the people who wrote the text. Inspiration is grounded in the natural. The text is a "form of art" and represents truths that are universal, if understood within context and with a keen eye toward principles of "wisdom". In the sense that people are inspired by God's gifting, the Scriptures are inspired. But, the Scriptures are not some superspiritualized text that is "above" humanity. The Scriptures are not God, they only reveal things about God and man.

Scriptures cannot be absolutized as law. The giving of the law was within a particular culture and paradigm. And the law was interpreted as what gave distinction to the people of God before they had a homeland (a nation-state). The Law defined an undefined people. It was their identity. Today's nation state maintains an ordered structure through law that brings a more defined identity to the individual through culture. Identity is not anti-thetical to being Christian, because being Christian, is about being human.

But, is this view of Scripture appropriate? Do we render the text as a rule-book, where everyone adheres to the "standards" that are written without recourse or re-dress from the distinctiveness of the contexts of the text, the people of the text and people of today?

These questions will be answered differently within Christian commitment. We must allow that diversity, otherwise, we limit God's revelation to our limited minds, understanding, context, knowledge of the world in the present, etc. Surely, then we would understand that the text has been understood differently. And surely we understand that the text is the text of only one tradition. It is not the whole of revelation. It is only a part.

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