Tuesday, December 25, 2012

How We Read the Bible - Part 10

10 posts. I thought it would be about 4, but I could have written 20.

I'm guessing this series has unsettled some of you.

I'm hopeful that this series has suggested a way forward that you might consider personally and in your church.

Now, let me end with a few cautions.

First, my proposal is likely very exciting for a younger generation that is caught in the midst of a postmodern shift. Any reading of Scripture that doesn't leave room for a diversity of interpretations will likely sound too narrow for those of you in that group. Be careful about your excitement. Check your motives.

Second, if this series has frightened you about the future of Churches of Christ, part of your discomfort probably derives from a fear that Churches of Christ might depart from the Truth (capital "T"). We had it right. Why do you young people have to come in and destroy what was working? Let me say: Your voice is needed.

Here comes the hard part.

Though it might have sounded like it at times in my blog series, I am not suggesting that we move toward a "Reader-Response Hermeneutic." A Reader-Response Hermeneutic isn't interested in what the original author intended to say...the work of exegesis. That hermeneutic suggests that the reader shouldn't seek to find meaning in the text, but instead the reader comes to the text to create meaning. In other words, however the text impacts the reader is the meaning of the text to that reader.

In reality, many of us do this when we read the text in our devotional time. We hear things in the text that couldn't have possibly been intended by Jesus or the Apostle Paul. Context is vitally important! If it's not, I wasted 6 years of my life in Abilene, Texas.

In the end, we don't declare our biases so that we can read the text independently from others and come up with our own opinions.

That's not why I've written this blog series.

Instead, we do the hard work of making our biases more conscious and more faithful to the story of Scripture so that we can engage in the reading of Scripture more honestly as a member of the Body of Christ.

Somewhere we came up with the idea that we check our church's decisions and judge them against our own notions about what church should be like. Does the preacher agree with me? Is worship done in a way that I agree with? Does worship move me emotionally?

When we allow those questions to determine what church we attend, we end up sitting in the pew with  people who share the same racial background, socioeconomic level, theological tendencies, and watch the same cable news channel.

But I'm suggesting that individuals should do the opposite. We should submit our biases to the community of faith...not the other way around.

I think I'm right about everything. I believe if the church would just do everything I tell them to do, we would be in a better place. I believe that my interpretation of Scripture is the same as God's intent in every case.

And I bet you do too.

But I'm not right about everything. I'm guessing, I'm wrong about a lot.

And that's why God gave us the church.

I am part of a generation that doesn't trust the church all that much. The church is a messy place. The church is part of the reason why unbelievers continue to reject Jesus. We're anything but perfect.

But I do believe something mysterious happens in a church that communally discerns through the power of the Holy Spirit. I do believe God works in a church that allows diverse, godly voices to interpret Scripture together.

The Old Hermeneutic (command, example, necessary inference) never really worked. It was supposed to be a way to agree to agree. But we find ourselves more divided than ever.

I'm suggesting a new hermeneutic. It's a hermeneutic that admits that we pick and choose. It's a hermeneutic full of bias. It's a hermeneutic of vulnerability where we submit our biases as openly as we can to the community of faith.

But ultimately, a new hermeneutic is useless unless we intend to read Scripture with the intent of being changed by what we read.

So, get a Bible and read. You might be surprised by what you find. And you might be surprised by what you become.


No comments: