Prologue: Scripture and the Authority of God: How to Read the Bible Today

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Random thoughts as I read through this book…

The prologue opens by examining Scripture throughout the course of Church History, albeit a very brief examination. I find that the brevity will lead to challenges, especially from the more conservative, biblicalists camps, who still see themselves directly associated with the New Testament writers in thought, deed and a tradition which was formed only yesterday. Granted, the book may handle this later on, or not, as the book is directed to an audience which holds to Scriptural authority, but understands the role of Tradition.

Interestingly he notes something which I think plagues biblical students today, in that the greatest theologians didn’t separate biblical studies from their work. I wonder who we might put that into play at the annual gatherings of the Society of Biblical Literature, or even in the blogosphere, or at our congregational meetings on Sunday morning. There comes up from time to time the role of atheists in biblical studies, of which I no longer have a problem with, but some accuse them of not having a sympathetic ear to the believer (theology) when working as a biblical scholar. I tend to believe that the sympathetic ear is needed in understanding a wide range of avenues in biblical studies, from redaction to reception. In speaking about Scripture within Contemporary Culture, Wright seems to tackle many of the issues which crop up from time to time, such as the notion of truth and power. He tackles the debates of modern v. post-modern, arriving at a different place which must not be called pre-modern. Wright introduces us – this is not a chapter of argument – to disparity which we tackle Scripture with the post-modern thought that “all claims to truth thus collapse into claims to power.” (p6) I am unsure how this will be received with Liberation Theologians, but I tend to agree with him in that by pushing Scripture (redaction) to such a level, we deny the Spirit’s work on breathing out Scripture.

In speaking about Scripture and Politics, in a theme which I am seeing more and more, he notes that since the Enlightenment, the Church has stopped using Scripture in the political arena, although it is laden with such ideas – liberation, exodus, economics, etc…

Wright’s toughest words, it seems, is for the theologians, and perhaps the systematic ones. Equally so, he lashes out, controlled of course, against the rising ‘radical orthodoxy’, both of which seem to value Tradition and interpretative hermeneutics over Scripture. This is a common theme in Wright’s work, as he sees himself as a proponent of sola scriptura, especially against some in the Reformed circles who value their Tradition over the biblically studied and enlightened meaning of what Scripture actually says.

All of this builds up to the notion in Scripture and Ethics that for the first time, in a very long time, Christians are returning to the Scriptures to act as a guide in their daily living, and by that, he means something more than the daily devotional. He sites the rise of the Just War (moving to pacifism), gender and sexuality, and even serving in the military as areas affected by the use of Scripture, once again, to determine ethics. This seems to be the point of the book – to use Scripture as authority without falling into age old interpretative traps, which for him seem to be “shallow.”

So far, he is hitting the right notes with me. he argues for a biblical context, putting the authority of Scripture as central to the argument, but noting the cultural differences which many have today – which put angles of view on the Scriptures. So far, so good.

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