Friday, May 25, 2012

Scripture's Truth

Christians affirm the truth--another good word is "trustworthiness"--of Scripture.

Evangelical Christians, of which I consider myself one, take it very seriously.

But do we think about the truth of Scripture in the right way, by which I mean in the way that God intends and in the way that Scripture itself leads us to think about it?

Most of us, in practice if not in carefully thought out theory, assign different levels of authority to different parts of Scripture. We just seem to know, whether or not we've ever studied hermeneutics and theology, that some random law in Leviticus doesn't have the same binding authority on us on this side of Jesus Christ as a saying of Jesus does--although we can be selective in which Old Testament "laws" we want to enforce and don't want to enforce.

Most of us would also affirm, although we might want to have much discussion over what it means, that since Jesus Christ was God with us and thus the epitome of God's revelation of God's self to us, that Jesus is the heart and center of Scripture.

If Jesus Christ is the epitome of God's self-revelation to humanity and if he is that to which all of Scripture points and testifies, then it stands to reason, it seems to me, that we should read and interpret Scripture through the lens of Jesus.

That position has clear if complicated ramifications for how we read the Hebrew Bible.

Today's question, though, has to do with the New Testament.

Given that the four Gospels offer a witness to Christ that is simultaneously consistent and diverse, and given that the letters of Paul and of the other New Testament writers offer testimony that, while clearly motivated by a desire to preach Christ and to apply the good news of Jesus to different situations, nonetheless reveals the realities of the struggle to do so--a struggle in which we continue to engage--might Scripture's second greatest truth, after its greatest truth of bearing witness to Jesus, be in how it bears witness to the honest, evolving, difficult, and messy process of trying to be Christ's presence in the real world?

Alongside the popular motto of "God said it, I believe it, and that settles it" maybe we should place this one: "The truth of Scripture is found in the model it offers of how to wrestle in an ongoing way with the meaning of Jesus Christ and with the meaning of being his followers."

Granted, it won't fit on a bumper sticker.

Thankfully, we have the Holy Spirit to help us...

No comments: