Thursday, December 19, 2013

These Essays: Why We Have the Bible, or Why the Bible Possesses Us



And the word became flesh and lived among us
- John 1:14a

But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus,
‘And who is my neighbor?’
- Luke 10: 29

I concluded my last essay by saying that the contents of Scripture do not simply present themselves matter-of-factly. Rather, by using symbolism both sophisticated and profound, employing energies both conscious and unconscious, Scripture not only attempts to persuade us of its truth but also to imaginatively welcome us into its world. 

Scripture conveys a sense of empathy. Scripture knows us for ourselves, and invites us to know its world in turn. But to describe how this anthology of very ancient texts can do so, we Christians must back up a bit. We must ask why we have a book at all.

One either reads the Bible, after all, or hears it read by those who do. For Christians, Holy Scripture is wholly written text. These simple facts pose, for those Christians who see God’s hand in history, a simple-seeming question: why a book for revelation? Why not a succession of prophets or kings? Why not the interpretation of dreams or stars? Why not listen to the still small voice within?

Christians may do those things, of course, and even within the narratives of the Bible people of faith indeed have done them. But for most Christians for most of history the primary instrument of the revelation of God has been the collection of ancient texts known as the Old and New Testaments. Why?

If we do not assume an accident of history, and if we do not read our own tradition cynically, then we must see somewhere in the history of the Bible the quiet hand of God. We have, of course, often thought about this in terms of the selection of canonical texts. Through common criteria, God led bishops and councils to select the proper gospels and eschew the specious or unlikely ones. But a deeper and perhaps more important question might be: Why did God have them choosing any books at all?

One cannot, of course, presume to know the mind of God. But the more laudatory aspects of the history of Scripture in Christianity suggest an interesting possibility: fostering community. Of course Scripture has also been used to isolate and to divide, but from Paul’s letters to the Corinthians to the Baptist “Sunday meetings” of the twentieth Century, the word of God has called communities together around biblical texts.

Though historical-critical analysis tells that the first identifiable Christian communities gathered around oral traditions of the Christ, those same traditions have Jesus reading from the prophets in a synagogue as part of ordinary Jewish worship. That scripture is certainly Christian does not mean that it is exclusively so: all the “people of the book” tie their origins to holy writ, as do Hindus and the practitioners of several other major world religions. Simply put, as loci of communities, texts seem to work in antiquity and modernity alike.

It is not hard to guess why they might do so. One does not often discuss at length a prophecy with a fellow bystander; when the words of God are exactly given, little more need be said. Or once one reads the stars for one’s own self, one has little interest in debating their meaning; there is minimal evidence for worthy argument. And the same is true for the interpretation of dreams. Even in the Biblical narratives there are interpretations which are true and interpretations which are false, but little way of discriminating between them before the events they foretell actually come to pass.

Yet a text provokes discussion immediately and, what is truly important, for all time. Save the Apocalypse, no event is going to come and unequivocally validate or invalidate particular interpretations of Biblical texts. So Scriptures become immediately and inextricably entangled with interpretations of them—discussions taking place through time. And given time, interpreters who agree are going to come together; those who disagree will move apart. Holy writ gives us religious traditions, ongoing conversations of assent and dissent around a common subject, a “place” around which like minds can meet.

What Scripture does not do, of course, is provide us with a reason for reading it. We do that ourselves. Scripture may call communities together, but only communities can decide whether or not they are going to answer. Now we have already said in some detail how Christian scripture may function as unique psychological authority. And we have said that readings that recognize its wisdom may bear fruit—indeed that these will bear more helpful fruit than those that do not.

But if we remember our definition of validity as both strength and appropriateness of explication, we must ask another question. Why must ask why Scripture is particularly suited for—and not only authoritative over—the psyche and soul of what we might call “the wounded reader.” For it certainly cannot be the case that Christians believe they approach the Scriptures as Christ intended them to. And Christians who understand the postmodern concern with self-interested reading will think so even less.

For we interpret with our injuries as well as our iniquities. We come to Scripture seeking solace as much as we come bearing sins. And while Christian history has a long and varied history of attempting to deal with sin, solace and healing of the whole person require a different sort of balm. They require empathy. And if Christians are going to find empathy in Scripture, then they are going to find it through a book. So it follows that the form of the book would matter in this regard.  

2 comments:

Steve Finnell said...

CALLING ON THE NAME OF THE LORD?

On the Day of Pentecost Peter quoted the prophet Joel (Acts 2:21'And it shall be that everyone who call on the name of the Lord will be saved.')

To call on the name of the Lord is to acknowledge the authority and power of the Lord, and follow in obedience by meeting the terms of pardon.

The apostle Peter did not tell those on the Day of Pentecost to say the "sinner's prayer." Saying the "sinner's prayer" is not calling on the name of the Lord.

Peter preached the death, burial, and bodily resurrection of Jesus. Peter declared the Jesus was Lord and Christ. (Acts 2: 22-26) They obviously believed Peter's preaching because they asked the question(Acts 2:37 ....."Brethren what shall we do?")
Peter did not tell them to say the "sinner's prayer." What was Peter's response to their question? (Acts 2:38 Peter said to them, "Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.)


THE NARRATIVE OF CALLING ON THE NAME OF THE LORD.
1. FAITH: Believe in the death, burial, and bodily resurrection of Jesus. Accept Jesus as Lord and Savior.
2. CONFESSION: Acknowledge Jesus as the Christ and the Son of God.
3. REPENTANCE: Make the commitment to turn from sin and turn toward God.
4. WATER BAPTISM: Be immersed into Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.


HOW DID THE ETHIOPIAN EUNUCH CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD? (Acts 8:25-40


1. Philip preached Jesus to him. (Acts 8:35)
2. He confessed Jesus as The Christ the Son of God. (Acts 8:37)
3. He was baptized in water. Immersed by Philip. (Acts 8:38-39)
The Ethiopian eunuch did not say the sinner's pray nor was he asked to do so by Philip.


Romans 10:13 for "WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED."


Romans 10:9-10 that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; 10 for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.


To call on the name of the Lord is to acknowledge His power and authority and confess Him as Lord and Christ . (Acts 2:26,Acts 8:37, Romans 10:9-10) To call on the Name of the Lord is to repent and be baptized. (Acts 2:38)


WE ARE TOLD TO CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD TO BE SAVED.


We are never told we are saved by "faith only." We are never told that saying the "sinner's prayer" is calling on the name of the Lord.


IF SAYING THE "SINNER'S PRAYER" IS NOT A REQUIREMENT FOR SALVATION? THEN WHAT ARE THE REQUIREMENTS FOR SALVATION.


THE REQUIREMENTS!
1. Faith: John 3:16
2. Belief and baptism: Mark 16:16
3. Confession and belief: Romans 10:9-10
4. Born of water and Spirit: John 3:5
5. Grace and faith: Ephesians 2:8
6. Buried through baptism: Roman 6:4-5
7. Water baptism: 1 Peter 3:20-21
8. Baptism: Acts 22:16
9. Baptized into Christ: Galatians 3:27
10. Believe: Acts 16:30-31
11. Repentance and baptism: Acts 2:38
12. God's mercy, water baptism, and the Holy Spirit: Titus 3:5
13. Water baptism: Colossians 2:12-13
14. Repentance: Acts 3:19


IF YOU HAVE COMPLETED THESE REQUIREMENTS---THEN YOU HAVE CALLED ON THE NAME OF THE LORD!

YOU ARE INVITED TO FOLLOW MY BLOG. http://steve-finnell.blogspot.com

Shelly Mann said...

An interesting thing to note about the authority of Scripture is that Scripture is authoritative because it is God-breathed and it is the story of God's relationship with and faithfulness to a broken humanity. St. Anselm of Canterbury tells us that salvation had to come through the God-human because it was what man ought yet only God could do. The message of salvation, healing, and wholeness couldn't come through anyone but God (through Christ the Word and through Scripture) because it would have no authority through another messenger. If I tell my friend to call into work for me, there is no authority to my message and it has not been delivered appropriately and should not be received by my employer because the message has no authority if it does not come from me or from an appropriate representative. My boss cannot know this is truly what I have said, and I cannot know with certainty my bosses reply. The same goes for salvation and healing. Without the Word incarnate and the Word of Scripture, the Church has no authority. God communicates healing directly to humanity just as healing and wholeness come through authoritatively communicating directly and chaos and brokenness ensue when we are not direct in our communication.