Recently I have kind of been made fun of because of some of my comments on Scripture and how I approach their interpretation. So I am going to write this blog post to kind of define some of my views of Scripture and revelation so I don’t get the awkward “You don’t believe in Scripture” look anymore.
First, I believe that the Holy Scriptures are useful and are foundational for the Christian life. Without the Hebrew Scriptures and New Testament documents the Christian religion has no footing. In saying this I want to also affirm that Scripture is a witness to God. Notice I say witness and not revelation. I take here a Barthian (Karl Barth) view of Scripture and divine revelation. Scripture is not the divine revelation within itself, but rather is a witness to the divine revelation of Jesus Christ. Jesus is the full revelation of who God is. Scripture in turn points and reveals Christ to us. This in turn means that Scripture can contain errors in “factual” historical accounts. In saying that the Bible is not a fact book. It is not a book of propositions that we can probe to fit our specific theological doctrines. It is humans interacting with the divine revelation of God and interpreting it through their own understandings. Scripture is interpreted. Life is interpreted. This is the basics of hermeneutics. You can’t read the Bible without interpreting it. The early church knew this that is why they developed allegorical interpretation along with the host of other interpretations. Now I am not saying we go back to an allegorical reading of the Scriptures. If you read Augustine and some of his crazy understandings of Scripture you will understand what I mean. What I am trying to get at is that Scripture just like the rest of our life is an act of interpretation. In saying that we can have differentiating views of how the Scriptures speak to our lives. Even my oh so favorite theologian Calvin (That is sarcasm if you didn’t get that) had a strong view that the Holy Spirit led the interpretation of Scripture. Scripture is not meant to be fact book or a science book. It is a living breathing Book that reveals what the people of Israel and the early church thought about God. That doesn’t mean that Scripture is the end all of all doctrinal ideas. Let me expand on that idea.
I uphold something usually referred to as progressive revelation. Basically this means that I think that God continues to open the eyes of humanity through there own studies and faculties to new understandings of who God is. In saying that it doesn’t mean that we can have just any interpretation. I strongly believe that if you claim to be apart of Christian faith then the Scriptures are the starting point from which theology must begin and in some ways end. I can’t for instance say that God is hateful God who just wants to damn everyone (I mean everyone even the elect, I am not making a jab at Calvinists here I promise.) to Hell. That I would say goes against Scripture in 1 John saying that God is love. Yet I think it is perfectly acceptable to say that God suffers which in the early church would be considered heresy, not because the Bible said this outright, but rather because of much of the Greek worldview that Christianity was placed into said that God or the divine could not suffer. God suffering is just one example of how one could interpret progressive revelation.
So there are just a few ideas about Scripture. Feel free to leave me a comment. I would love this to be a discussion.
Last week I posted on how doubt for many Christians is a burden that they must eliminate or at the very least seek to overcome. I want to purpose in this post that faith and doubt cannot exist without each other. The two are paradoxically linked together. Paul Tillich in his book Dynamics of Faith shows how doubt is an integral part of faith, for without doubt faith sinks into blind belief. Without the presence of doubt there is never a sense that what has been taught or realized as “belief” is evaluated. I don’t want to say here that all faith actions and its dynamics have to be empirically proven or tested rather that we do not uncritically take in just blind belief. Paul Ricoeur discusses this movement when he describes the hermeneutic arc. The process of moving through the critical stage into a new understanding or a second naïveté. This I believe is what the power and presence of doubt can do in the life of a Christian.
If doubt then is necessary for the Christian faith why are some many lay people terrified of their doubt? Why are so many pastors proclaiming from the pulpit that doubt should be eliminated? Why are those who express doubts in their Christian walk and life branded either as heretics, or lacking in some spiritual discipline? The answer I fear has more to do with our modernist heritage than it does with real authentic Christian faith. Modernism defined knowledge and truth to be clearly defined. Descartes often said to be the founder of Modernity wanted a clear and distinct way of knowing which he found in “pure reason”, this is often referred to as Cartesian certainty. This is the foundation of much of what we say faith is in this day and age.
What if we reinterpreted the biblical passages of strong doubt into positive aspects in the faith journey? Instead the degrading “Doubting Thomas” we saw this narrative as a way for which Thomas to continue in his faith journey. Doubt is apart of the Christian life and should be a integral step in the faith journey.Selfishly I am writing this post because I am kind of tired of being labeled a crazy heretic or liberal or whatever title you want to give me. I guess it is my hope that one day I can approach my fellow sister or brother in Christ and not be condemned for my theology or beliefs, but rather be welcomed and may the same be true of me.
The peace of the Lord be always with you.
The discussion of how postmodernism and theology is perhaps as fluid and as controversial as the whole movement of Postmodernism itself. This is why of course I wish to talk about it. I am currently in a class discussing the implication of French philosopher Paul Ricœur and his understanding of hermeneutics on the enterprise of theology. Ricoeur famously develops his understanding of the hermeneutic and narrative arc. Without going into too much detail there is basically three different stages of interpretation culminating in a post critical understanding. While this arc is more like a spiral considering interpretation is continuous it is good metaphor for which to understand interpretation. My question comes: Can this post critical understanding be conceived of as ethics and what would this mean for theology and the Christian life? For those of you reading who may be wondering what the heck I am talking about another question might be: How do we have a critical engagement in the world as Christians especially in the realm of ethics? Thoughts and comments welcome.