Tuesday, 17 April 2007

Rowan Williams: Liberals and Biblicists don't read the Bible properly

Take Scripture out of this context of the invitation to sit at table with Jesus and to be incorporated into his labour and suffering for the Kingdom, and you will be treating Scripture as either simply an inspired supernatural guide for individual conduct or a piece of detached historical record -- the typical exaggerations of Biblicist and liberal approaches respectively. For the former, the work of the Spirit is more or less restricted to the transformation of the particular believer; for the latter, the life of the community is where the Spirit is primarily to be heard and discerned, with Scripture an illuminating adjunct at certain points. But grasp Scripture as part of the form taken by the divine act of invitation that summons and establishes the community around the Lord's Table, and the Bible becomes coherent at a new level, as a text whose meaning is most centrally to do with the passage from rivalry and self-assertion and the enmity with God that is bound up with these to the community in which each, by the influx of the Spirit, takes responsibility for all, and all for each. Read more (NB the full text of RW's talk follows the introduction)

1 comment:

Daniel Roe said...

Q
What he's saying is that you can prove anything from the Bible, and don't listen to the evangelical with proof texts
A
Or the liberal who doesn't believe it anyway
Q
Both are equally convinced in their own opinions
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And there's an inverseSquare relationship between actual knowledge and noise
Q
So you are saying you cannot take the Bible as your compass for life - like evangelicals do
A
Well - it's a bit like sat nav really
Q
Aren't some sat nav systems a bit, er
A
Exactly - like the blind leading the blind in Luke 6:39 - if y'll pardon my taking a verse way, hey, hey out of context
Q
Like they both fall in the ditch
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Got it one - I mean it's not that sat nav's totally out of order
Q
They pay lots of money for them
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Aye and people find it worth stealing them - the point is that used sensibly, I dare say they are a godsend
Q
Like scripture
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Second Timothy 3:16 and all that – unless of course that’s no longer, er, gospel – don’t think logically, think THEO-logically – like yer tourist asks one of the locals, ‘Do you know the way to Limerick?’ ‘Sure,’ sez yer local, ‘but I wouldn’t start from here’
Q
So it’s a mess, this Bible lark
A
Hmm – looks like there’s something in the liberal position: the Bible’s not so much God’s Word as an account of human attempts to figure it out – but it’s the best we’ve got – and I dare say some of it’s God’s Word.
Q
Which bits?
A
Matthew 13:44-45 – God’s Word is like treasure in a field of manure – the Bible is the manure, and it’s the preacher’s job to find the treasure
Q
Now you come to mention it, not a bad description of most preaching
A
Indeed – it’s true of most evangelical preaching – I mean, if you were to discard the parts of the Bible not preached, you wouldn’t be left with a lot, isn’t it
Q
And evangelicals can’t even agree on that
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Like I said, you prove anything from the Bible – infant baptism, believers’ baptism, episcopacy, and congregationalism – and this is just evangelicals
Q
But doesn’t Second Timothy 3:16 say that all scripture is…
A
Aye, there’s the rub – ALL scripture, not just the canon within a canon as defined by one’s own denominational authorityBunch – I mean, c’mon, even guys like the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons have their own fave texts – talk about proving anything for scripture
Q
They’re not Christian
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Evangelical exegesis writ large – OK their methods are a caricature of evangelical proof-texts, but the principle is the same, hey, but let’s not go there – instead let’s get back to ‘All scripture’ – and how’s about a radical approach: (1) let our church-doing be conformed to the Bible – as opposed to our Bible being conformed to our church-doing; (2) instead of digging for devotional paydirt, let’s relax when we read our Bibles and go with the flow – let it carry us along
Q
Aren’t we supposed to look for applications?
A
Sure, but what about the parts with no immediately obvious application, like genealogies in Chronicles – or parts that on first sight don’t appear to say what we think the Bible ought to say – like Psalm 137:9
Q
Hmm – I guess we tend to shy away from them
A
Judging by the preaching and devotional literate, that’s most of the Bible – to say nothing about the shy-away-from-ed bits that don’t quite affirm the various denominational principles
Q
Aye – there’s the rub – denomination and tradition – thoroughly ingrained into us like as in Blackpudlian seaside rock – as you eat through it you can still see ‘Blackpool’ down the centre
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Proverbs 27:22 – Though you grind a fool in a mortar with a pestle along with crushed grain, yet his foolishness will not depart from him – hey ‘pool’ is to pudlian as – no, don’t let’s go there
Q
So we’re never going to agree on one interpretation of the Bible
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So – pace 1 Corinthians 14:33 – God IS the author of confusion: I mean given that the result of a diversity of interpretations (and I’m talking about the gospel community – evangelicals who believe that the Bible is God’s inspired, infallible, inerrant word) is confused anarchy in the church – much like, say, Judges 21:57 – no king, and everyone does what they think’s right, hey – I mean c’mon, look at the evidence – would you say that there’s a king in the Kingdom?
Q
Hey steady on?
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If the Bible can dish it out, can it take it? Matthew 7:20 speaks of judging a tree by its fruit – let’s apply that to the Bible, then – I mean what is Our Lord praying for in John 17:20-23? Now take a gander at the heresies and schism which are the norm
Q
Suppose
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OK – let’s suppose that God knows what he is talking about and that he is pretty good at communicating it
Q
Right
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Then it is obvious that his Word is going to be clear and unambiguous – and easily understood by those he wants to respond to it – that’s all of us
Q
In theory – yes
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Hey can I put it this way – imagine a team-building exercise – a diocesan or deanery retreat for the clergy. Lots of silly activities and lots of mind-blowing puzzles – like can you divide a cake into 8 equal pieces with just 3 cuts with a knife?
Q
Hmm – I’d say it was impossible – maybe that’s the answer – I mean it’s obvious you can cut it into 4 with 2 cuts, and then you are going to need 2 more
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Pretty much the conclusion the vicars came to – and my goodness the language was a tad, er, don’t let’s go there – I mean they were given 20 minutes and the inscrutable smile from the lady ‘facilitator’ (‘teacher’ / ‘leader’) was infuriating – there must be some trick – some Oxbridge educated young curate was busy drawing circles with intersecting lines at a tangent to the whatever – then the lady asked what they’d do if they wanted to insert a jam filling
Q
Wow – so the first cut is horizontal – and then you can do your other two cuts vertically and at right angles – wicked!!
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Once seen, never forgotten
Q
Right
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Ditto for the ONE unambiguous interpretation of God’s Word as envisaged by, er, God – once seen, never forgotten – like one of those cryptic crossword clues – so obvious
Q
Once someone has explained
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OK – you’ve got some pretty savvy guys out there – gospel ministers committed to the preaching and proclamation – so how’s about these guys start praying and talking together to get the definitive interpretation of God’s Word – surely God’s will, because it’s through this that God will be able to build his new gospelCommunity
Q
God’s Word gathering his people together – hey, brill
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I mean take ‘My sheep hear my voice’ and currently they don’t because of the cacophony of conflicting noises – God gathering and building his people – as in Ephesians 4:11-16 – take a careful gander and see where it’s going – I mean we’re not seeking to prop up some failing institution like AngCom plc – arguing about whether the laws that proscribe gays also proscribe prawns and bacon – no, this is God’s Word gathering his saints and building up an awesome and beautiful church – and people outside are attracted – this is the Zion of Isaiah 2 into which the nations are streaming – Psalm 50:2, Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God hath shined – I mean, Wow!!!