Wednesday, 15 April 2009
Biblical Interpretation and Preconceptions
We all bring pre-understandings to Scripture, but how to let Scripture do its work of shattering those preconceptions? The two most prolific preconceptions in need of shattering are represented by the two opposite ends of the spectrum, the trajectories of right-wing fundamentalism and socially minded liberalism. The right's commitment to inerrancy prior to reading and interpreting any particular part of Scripture is an example of Scripture squeezed into an ideological mould. It needs to be shattered for it will miss the unnatural truth of God's unity with a corpse that is the key to Easter. What kind of God does the fundamentalist trajectory impress upon Scripture with inerrancy? A God who can't make 'mistakes', by which I mean be part of the actual history of humanity, speak through th imperfections of individuals and communities of faith? The god of inerrancy is not the God of Jesus immersed in our human history. While inerrancy might hold out an attractive sense of consistency, it is a consistency won at the expense of the humanity of God. There are other ways of grasping Scripture's inner thread of consistency.
Liberal theology's commitment to expressivism, where the truths of Scripture are just one more expression of a timeless truth available to all at all times, is the left's version of ideological moulding. Jesus is not one more example of God's love to be found similarly in Hinduism, Socrates, or a modern Che Guevara. Teh universal significance of the call of Abraham, leading to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, is played out on the canvas of universal history, but comes to that history as something new and unique.
So where might we begin to shatter our preconceptions? Reflection on the most unnatural truth of Scripture: God's union with a corpse.