Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Beyond the Bible?

Last year I read and was disturbed by I Howard Marshall's Beyond the Bible: Moving from Scripture to Theology. In this short book, Professor Marshall attempts to offer guidance for the task of applying scriptural insight to contemporary issues.

What I found disturbing, though, was that the book seems to give us a hermeneutic which allows us to reinterpret the teaching of Scripture so that at times it says something far different from what it originally said and meant.

The reinterpretation seems to allow us to say what Jesus or Paul would have said, or should have said, had they lived today. What a shame that they were not free to say what God had intended!

Some time before I had read William Webb's Slaves, Women & Homosexuals: Exploring the Hermeneutics of Cultural Analysis,which also seems to allow us a way of avoiding some of what the Bible teaches by envisioning where it was leading.

So I was interested to read Four Views on Moving Beyond the Bible to Theology, which interacts with Marshall's book and includes chapters by William Webb, Walter Kaiser, Daniel Doriani and Kevin Vanhoozer. I haven't finished this book yet, but again find Webb's contributions unsatisfying. Kaiser's principlizing model does seem also give modern readers an out whereby we can find the principle behind what Scripture says, but deny the apparent original force of its teaching.

Kaiser may use this method to rewrite what the Bible appears to teach on the roles of men and women and women's ministry, but others could easily take it further to white out other teachings which are found objectionable by Twenty-first Century folk.

Daniel Doriani's chapter is refreshing and encouraging and shows how we can "go beyond the Bible" without departing from its teachings: we can find principles for living today which were not originally addressed in the Bible, but which do not contradict the old book, but can be shown to be in harmony with it.

Dr Doriani points out that we can learn from narrative in the Bible, as well as from commands, promises and warnings. It has often been said that we shouldn't make doctrine out of narrative. Yet, the Bible is a narrative.

He says that the characters in the Bible and the stories are intended teach us what to do and what not to do. Sometimes the narrator tells us whether the character or story is intended as a good or bad example.

Where the narrator does not tell us, we can compare the passage with the rest of what the writer presents as positive or negative, or go further by reading what the rest of Holy Scripture has to say.

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