Friday, January 29, 2010

What is means to be humble before the text.

I've been learning recently that the doctrine of sola scriptura is easier said than done. Which is saying something, since I'm never really sure if I'm pronouncing those Latin phrases correctly or not. But as difficult as it is to say, its even tougher to do.

Sola Scriptura means that we hold the Bible as our ultimate authority in faith and in life. It means that we, as Christians, are bound to believe what the Bible teaches. And it means that all of our beliefs should be based on scriptural teaching. That which we hear in church, we compare to the Bible to make sure it is true (Acts 17:11). When we read Christian books, theologians, or even when we sing songs, we judge their content by what is in the Word of God.

Things get a little sticky when we realize that this process often works in reverse as well. In other words, when our pastor explains a certain passage of scripture to us, we tend to believe him, and that becomes the way we understand the passage. Our theology often informs the way we read the Bible. And for the most part this is good. God ordained that there would be teachers and preachers in the church so they could do just this, teach us the Bible!

Here's where I'm going. One of my teachers was recently telling me how he came to a certain position he holds to. It is a very acceptable, yet minority position within the world of reformed theology. For years he had held to the majority position. But then he began to read a few key texts differently. For so many years he had read the text in one way, because that was how our theology told him to read the text. But it had made him miss several obvious features.

He told me how deeply humbling it was for him to realize that this could happen. He is a Bible scholar both by trade and by hobby. He immerses himself in the text, both in English and Hebrew. And yet the task of Biblical interpretation is such a deeply communal activity that we often follow the footsteps of those who have gone before, enjoying their insights, and often making the same mistakes.

Another teacher often said that he had to be much more careful in reading authors he trusted, because he was liable to let his guard down and follow them in both truth and error. Whereas when reading authors he was skeptical of, he already was on his guard, and eagerly testing everything by the scriptures.

If the Bereans were praised for testing the Apostle Paul by the Word of God, then how much more ought I to subject my reformed forefathers (as much as I love and trust them) to the scriptures. And when I read the scriptures, how much more do I need to pray for the Spirit of God to lead me into all truth.


Ken said...

"Because we believe Scripture is God's Word, by which God addresses us, that means that Scripture is the subject and we are the object. During the process of exegesis we momentarily reverse these roles, so that we act as subject with the text as object. I would argue that the exegetical process is not completed until we return to the proper posture of objects being addressed by the subject."

- Gordon Fee, explaining that we cannot interpret the Bible correctly unless we are a follower of Christ

Glen said...

It the Bible is "inspired", God breathed...absolute truth coming from the mouth of God, then I have to test everything by what He says. To do anything else is foolishness. Thanks for your good words Jeff.