Thesis #2

I’ve been trying to come up with some sort of witty comment to introduce today’s post. Oh well. This is the second day of the joint blogging project Matt and I are doing. From here on out, I’ll refer to the theses like this: Thesis #1 = T1. Here’s T2:

2. Scripture is rightly understood in light of the church’s rule of faith as a coherent dramatic narrative.

Though the Bible contains the voices of many different witnesses, the canon of scripture finds its unity in the overarching story of the work of the triune God. While the Bible contains many tensions, digressions and subplots, the biblical texts cohere because the one God acts in them and speaks through them: God is the author of scripture’s unity for the sake of the church’s faithful proclamation and action.

How are nonnarrative portions of scripture to be understood in light of the claim that scripture is a coherent dramatic narrative? How do we understand the character of the Bible’s unity in and through its polyphony? The character of God’s speech through scripture? Of God’s authorship? How do we understand particular texts that seem theologically or morally problematic — does God speak through all the texts of scripture?

I’ve gotta say that it’s harder to get started on this one… I suppose it’d be best to start by saying that I see T2 coincidentally expanding on my thoughts from T1 about ‘Scripture as truth.’ The comment stream from the T1 post touched on the “tension” mentioned above in T2. The varying creation accounts in Genesis represent one such tension. It probably also represents at least a couple voices of the “many different witnesses” from whom we hear all across Scripture.

What if the Bible didn’t contain all those “many tensions, digressions and subplots?” Would it be nearly as interesting to read? I’m not saying the Bible’s purpose is to entertain us, but really, aren’t we by very nature attracted to things that don’t quite make sense? It’s like Bambi and Die Hard all rolled up into one. If Scripture was nothing but Bambi stories, really, would you read it? And if it was all Die Hard, it might even fall victim to banishment due to all the criticism of excessive violence in culture these days. That there are the Bambi moments our hearts crave, balanced with the Die Hard plotlines that never fail to pique our interest points to the Author knowing his reader-base.

  • How are nonnarrative portions of scripture to be understood in light of the claim that scripture is a coherent dramatic narrative? I’m going to assume that something like the Psalms are what’s being referred to as ‘nonnarrative.’ I enjoy –as well as benefit from– the flashbacks in LOST (except Nikki & Paulo), don’t you? Well, I think these nonnarrative portions of the canon are like emotional flashbacks. We get a snapshot of how David was feeling when he was in that whole mess with Bathsheba. The passive Nonnarrative portions undoubtedly enrich the active story woven through Scripture. And it all clearly shows God’s hand moving among us.
  • How do we understand the character of the Bible’s unity in and through its polyphony? The character of God’s speech through scripture? Of God’s authorship? Can the polyphony, by nature of itself, point to God’s authorship? Kind of like what I was saying before… would you really have as easy of a time diving into Scripture if it was totally homogeneous in theme, literary structure, tone, etc.? So, I’m going to venture to say that the Bible draws its unity from the fact that everything bears the stamp of the Master Author, One who knows better than to write a book that is completely the same all the way through; Scripture’s unity comes from its intentional polyphony.
  • How do we understand particular texts that seem theologically or morally problematic — does God speak through all the texts of scripture? Good question. I have a foundational faith that just as God was active in the recording of Scripture, He was active in the canonization of Scripture. He was with those men early on, at the Council of Jamnia; and later on, the Seven Ecumenical Councils, etc. I have to trust that what occupies the pages of my Bible today is in there for a reason. At the moment, I don’t know if I have any other thoughts on that question. I’ll chew on it for a while, and I’ll go ahead and get the rest of this stuff posted now.
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2 responses to “Thesis #2

  1. Pingback: learning to read the Bible again 2 « Scream Without Raising Your Voice

  2. I remember reading one of the English reformers giving 8 principles for rightly reading the Bible.
    Among them was to read in the midst of prayer, in the presence of the Holy Spirit.

    I think you are spot on in that God did not simply dictate a book, put it in the mail to us and tell us to figure it out. My view of Holy Scripture is more that He laid down thereby a pipeline.
    Just as He guided the selection of campfire and court tales from the aural tradition, and guided the Chroniclers of Israel as to what records to save, so He guided the councils that pronounced which of the documents in circulation were canonical, and so He speaks to me in the verse I need to hear, with the message I need from it, and from Him. If we drop the role of inspiration at any point from author to reader we are back to the watchmaker god.
    To be direct, God does speak through all, but not all the time, and not to everybody. Although I’m not so sure that it is not the troubling and problematic passages that contain the keys to things deeper than I already know. Those are the ones to chew on, and wrestle with the Lord about.

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