6.6.09

...evangelical views of the Bible―are actually too low...or lessons in humility

This in an interesting article by NT Wright for the following snippets which I have been bold enough to give my own titles:

Whose authority is it anyway?

...we imagine that we are ‘reading the text straight’, and that if somebody disagrees with us it must be because they, unlike we ourselves, are secretly using ‘presuppositions’ of this or that sort. This is simply naive, and actually astonishingly arrogant and dangerous.

...evangelicals often use the phrase ‘authority of scripture’ when they mean the authority of evangelical, or Protestant, theology, since the assumption is made that we (evangelicals, or Protestants) are the ones who know and believe what the Bible is saying.

...there is no biblical doctrine of the authority of the Bible. For the most part the Bible itself is much more concerned with doing a whole range of other things rather than talking about itself.

...scripture’s own view of authority focusses on the authority of God himself...If we think for a moment what we are actually saying when we use the phrase ‘authority of scripture’, we must surely acknowledge that this is a shorthand way of saying that, though authority belongs to God, God has somehow invested this authority in scripture.

... God’s authority vested in scripture is designed, as all God’s authority is designed, to liberate human beings, to judge and condemn evil and sin in the world in order to set people free to be fully human. That’s what God is in the business of doing. That is what his authority is there for. And when we use a shorthand phrase like ‘authority of scripture’ that is what we ought to be meaning. It is an authority with this shape and character, this purpose and goal.

Something old, something new

.. there is a sense in which the Old Testament is not the book of the church in the same way that the New Testament is the book of the church. Please do not misunderstand me. The Old Testament is in all sorts of important senses reaffirmed by Paul and Jesus and so on―it is the book of the people of God, God’s book, God’s word etc. But, the Old Testament proclaims itself to be the beginning of that story which has now reached its climax in Jesus; and, as the letter to the Hebrews says, ‘that which is old and wearing out is ready to vanish away’, referring to the
temple. But it is referring also to all those bits of the Old Testament which were good (they
weren’t bad, I’m not advocating a Marcionite position, cutting off the Old Testament) but,
were there for a time as Paul argues very cogently, as in Galatians 3. The New Testament,
building on what God did in the Old, is now the covenant charter for the people of God. We
do not have a temple, we do not have sacrifices―at least, not in the old Jewish sense of either
of those. Both are translated into new meanings in the New Testament. We do not have
kosher laws. We do not require that our male children be circumcised if they are to be part of
the people of God. We do not keep the seventh day of the week as the Sabbath. Those were
the boundary markers which the Old Testament laid down for the time when the people of
God was one nation, one geographical entity, with one racial and cultural identity. Now that
the gospel has gone worldwide we thank God that he prepared the way like that; but it is the
New Testament now which is the charter for the church.

What's all this got to do with me and you?
...as Jesus said in John 20, ‘As the Father sent me, even so I send you’. He sends the church into the world, in other words, to be and do for the world what he was and did for Israel. There, I suggest, is the key hermeneutical bridge. By this means we are enabled to move from the bare story-line, that speaks of Jesus as the man who lived and died and did these things in Palestine 2,000 years ago, into an agenda for the church. And that agenda is the same confrontation with the world that Jesus had with Israel: a confrontation involving judgement and mercy. It is a paradoxical confrontation because it is done with God’s authority. It is not done with the authority that we reach for so easily, an authority which will manipulate, or crush, or control, or merely give information about the world. But, rather, it is to be done with an authority with which the church can authentically speak God’s words of judgement and mercy to the world.

Great stuff!
Authority in the church, then, means the church’s authority, with scripture in its hand and
heart, to speak and act for God in his world. It is not simply that we may say, in the church,
‘Are we allowed to do this or that?’ ‘Where are the lines drawn for our behaviour?’ Or, ‘Must
we believe the following 17 doctrines if we are to be really sound?’ God wants the church to
lift up its eyes and see the field ripe for harvest, and to go out, armed with the authority of
scripture; not just to get its own life right within a Christian ghetto, but to use the authority of
scripture to declare to the world authoritatively that Jesus is Lord. And, since the New
Testament is the covenant charter of the people of God, the Holy Spirit, I believe, desires and
longs to do this task in each generation by reawakening people to the freshness of that
covenant, and hence summoning them to fresh covenant tasks.

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