Monday, February 16, 2009
Read The Whole Bible
The great Reformer Martin Luther famously found the letter of James to be a strawy epistle because, in his judgment, it did not teach enough Christ or faith or grace. It had too much law for him. Most of us have forgiven Luther for overcooking his confidence, but he illustrates how many of us often read the Bible. We fasten upon a “maestro” – and Luther’s maestro was clearly the Apostle Paul – and make the rest of the Bible fall in line with our maestro’s lens of interpretation.McKnight has put his finger on a genuine issue here. But he also falls into his own trap:
Maestro Bible reading is an alluring temptation for a number of reasons:
-It is simpler to master one author and let the others chime in where they fit;
-It is safer to have it all figured out;
-It is more challenging to work out our faith when we invite multiple voices to the table;
-It is easier to fit into our church tradition if we just let the tradition shape what we believe, and many traditions are shaped by maestro Bible readings.
...but the wisdom of God in giving us a canon—a list of 27 books that included Paul and Peter and John and Hebrews and Jude...Our canon includes more than the 27 books of the New Testament - there are the 39-fortysomething (depending on your denomination) books of the Old Testament. You see, McKnight's primary point:
Two observations flow from avoiding the maestro approach and inviting to the table all the “theologies” of the Bible. First, language can only do so much and the one thing that it can’t do is capture the fullness of God’s truth in one set of images. As you can’t describe a mountain from one angle, so you can’t describe the gospel with one term...Scripture is revelation and God reveals much of Himself in the Old Testament, as well as the New. Way too many Christians act as if Christ's coming somehow changed God's nature, but nothing could be further from the truth. Christ was there at creation and his incarnation was part of the plan from that beginning.
McKnight goes on to draw the conclusion that the plethora of scriptural voices create an image of a diverse church. With this I agree completely.
If we can put away our maestro approaches long enough to invite others to the table – African Americans, Latino Americans, Asian Americans, and both genders –we might hear the gospel better and offer to our world a more complete depiction of what God is doing in this world.To accomplish that we need to start with our own views. I'd start by reading the ENTIRE Bible.
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