Saturday, October 06, 2007

Nine Theses: Thesis Two

Thesis Two: Scripture is rightly understood in light of the church’s rule of faith as a coherent dramatic narrative. — The Scripture Project, “Nine Theses on the Interpretation of Scripture”

This is where a Calvinist is supposed to rise up and declare, "Nuh-uh!" Sola scriptura, folks, remember? Except... gosh, despite my self-description in the sidebar... I think this thesis has something sound behind it. It is this: scripture is not meant to be interpreted in a vacuum. Scripture is to be tossed like a ball, chewed like taffy, digested like a rich and delightful meal, passed around like after-dinner mints, fussed over like a beloved child. It is to be read and and debated and struggled over, and these things can really only happen in community. No one mind, however brilliant, however spirited or inspired, can or should bear ultimate responsibility for interpreting the words found in scripture.

The Spirit moves best in community, when and where the Spirit has somewhere to move to. This is not a new idea: far from it. This idea was embodied in the great rabbinic tradition, which encouraged every person (well, OK, every man) to become a scripture scholar. The Christian church famously departed from this and put scripture into the hands of scholars only for nearly 1500 years, until a few brave souls rose up and demanded that it be returned into the hands of the community.

The problem with all I've just written may be that Thesis Two might be read to mean The Church instead of the church; in other words, the experts rather than the entire community, the Rule of Faith as a monolith, unassailable. This member of the community chooses to read the latter interpretation. Scripture is to be interpreted by us all, experts and laywomen and men alike. We neglect any of these voices, and the truth is diminished. We include all these voices, and the dramatic narrative comes to brilliant, full-bodied life.


don't eat alone said...

The Church, capital C, is all the churches, little c, therefore theology is a wonderfully colorful and messy conversation. I think the most important things happen in lower case.


Wyldth1ng said...

Can I just say, "No?"

There is nothing coherent in the scripture, all of it is interpreted.
(Just my opinion.)

Magdalene6127 said...

Milton, I like that statement, most important things happen in lower case...

Wyldth1ng, you made me laugh out loud... And I want to say, "Yes!" in agreement, and "But..." at the same time.

I will tell you what I think is coherent in scripture: It's a story about God loving humanity. Period. Everything else is footnotes (and sometimes, footnotes that make no sense whatsoever). But I fully agree and accept that, that is my interpretation. And those nonsensical footnotes can probably be used to put the lie to that claim (about love, not about interpretation).

That said, I still think there's something valuable to the exercise, even if in the end it's all interpretation. That's how we build community and set our priorities, and I think those are good things.

IMHO. Thanks for writing, both of you.


Wyldth1ng said...

I think this is the first time I got a "church" question right. Yea!

I wrote a lengthy post about God awhile ago, in which some of my opinions have changed. If you have time some day, check it out.