Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Reading Scripture with Charity

Everyone wants to be read with charity these days, but no one wants to read the Bible with charity. I thought these words from Pinnock and Callen were appropriate.

Something needs to be said about the use of the Bible that is appropriate to the Scripture principle, about the preunderstanding that is the foundation of good hermeneutics. First, there should be a spirit of openness to the text. If the Bible is not merely a human product but is the Word of God, without exhausting that Word, then it follows that the believers will choose to accept the discipline of its teachings and seek to walk in the light of its statutes . . . The Bible, not merely a product of Near Eastern culture, is also the written Word of God and the canon of the church. Therefore, it ought to be approached in a spirit of faith, in the context of the believing community, and received as a reliable witness to God and his relationship with us. For the church to be apostolic means that it will live under the discipline of the normative Word of God.

This attitude brings one into conflict with the pretensions of much contemporary biblical criticism that often is suspicious of the text and prepared to overthrow it in the name of critical freedom. Criticism is faulty when it lords it over the text instead of submitting humbly to the text and serving it. It very easily becomes a technology of deconstruction that exalts the judgment of the scholar and demeans the authority of the Scriptures. Criticism is useful when it illumines the meaning of the Bible, and it is harmful when it seeks to overthrow what the text was given to tell us. No one can be wiser than the Bible, the book that owes its origin to the activity of God. As a divinely willed language deposit, the Scriptures are the place to stand in order to hear God speak and a central means of grace in the life of faith. They can be effective only when the reader approaches them in a spirit of openness and faith. The crucial things is a determination to know and love and serve God under the authority of his Word (The Scripture Principle, 91).

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