the fifth page for July 19, 2009
From the Song of Faith: (words in italics)
Scripture is our song for the journey, the living word
passed on from generation to generation
to guide and inspire,
that we might wrestle a holy revelation for our time and place
from the human experiences
and cultural assumptions of another era.
God calls us to be doers of the word and not hearers only.
For at least the last 100 years, most mainline seminaries (training schools for ministers) have taught an historical approach to the study of the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. In a nutshell, what that means is that ministers have been taught to read the Bible as the product of actual human communities, that existed in a particular time and place. The content of the scriptures was produced as part of the faithful response of people in those times and places to their experience of God.
Some ministers of previous generations seem to have held back from making this view of scripture explicit in their preaching and teaching. Some have theorized that ministers found it too much work, or too risky. Perhaps there was a concern that members would leave their congregations if the “party line” on the literal truth of the Bible was not upheld.
This strategy may have backfired. Mainline congregations (the ones that tend to be the most “liberal” in their thinking) have bled members in at least two ways. People who craved a more literal interpretation of the Bible have migrated to more fundamentalist churches. Some members who craved a more intellectually honest approach have drifted away altogether.
The recognition that scripture is a human and not a divine product is crucial, not only to interpreting the actual texts, but also to presenting our faith in a way that has intellectual integrity, and respect for other cultures and traditions.
We are long past the time when preachers and churches can get away with dismissing any and all questions about the Bible by saying, “The problem is that you lack faith! The Bible is true, because it is God’s Word.” (So shut up and pray for more faith!)
The Spirit breathes revelatory power into scripture,
bestowing upon it a unique and normative place
in the life of the community.
The Spirit judges us critically when we abuse scripture
by interpreting it narrow-mindedly,
using it as a tool of oppression, exclusion, or hatred.
The wholeness of scripture testifies
to the oneness and faithfulness of God.
The multiplicity of scripture testifies to its depth:
two testaments, four gospels,
contrasting points of view held in tension—
all a faithful witness to the One and Triune God,
the Holy Mystery that is Wholly Love.