Thursday, January 17, 2013

Scripture on Scripture, Scripture from Scripture

With a few minutes spare and access to a computer I can post within the ten days I thought posting might not be possible. Reading this morning in Hebrews this caught my eye:

"Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it." (2:1)

The writer to the Hebrews is self-consciously referencing what he writes to the then familiar Scripture of the church. It needs to be paid attention to, and in what I am writing to you, I am both paying attention myself and seeking to assist you, dear readers, in paying attention to it.

But what does the writer write in Hebrews? All he does is write what the familiar Scripture now means in the light of Jesus Christ. Thus his writing is also Scripture - not a new scriptural writing (as such) but an extension of the already existing Scripture, a drawing out (i.e. exegesis) of what had been hidden within Scripture: Jesus Christ, God coming into the world to speak to us in these last days (1:1-2). In this sense also Hebrews is Scripture: it is a writing down of what God has spoken 'by his Son' (1:2).

As Anglicans we read Scripture and hear it read, through the daily office/eucharist and weekly services. But a searching question for us, most especially at the time of the English Reformation, has been how much attention we pay to Scripture.

For evangelical Anglicans, our claim has been that we do pay attention to Scripture. But the question always before us is, Do we?




26 comments:

Peter Carrell said...

Comment from hogsters:

As to the question "do we?"


I suspect in direct relation to how we perceive it will suit us.

blessings

and happy new year. Keep up the good blog

Peter Carrell said...

Rosemary Behan comments:

OK, beginning with your last sentence if I may.

“My long-term goal on this blog is to contribute to shaping the ellipse back into a circle!”

I cannot see the benefit of EVER describing it as an ellipse. If you do so, surely you are calling the Gospel itself into question? The fact is that a Christian is ALWAYS a member of that invisible union that has it’s focus in our Saving Lord Jesus Christ. And anyone who says that Jesus is the author of confusion has not yet finished their investigation, and is therefore a ‘seeker’ and not a Christian. [I’m not sure about the term ‘seeker.’]

You say, “Our divisions set up different foci because we have created different "Christs".

But there cannot BE different Christs, surely that has always got to be our starting point as we discuss these things. To take the two differences you raise. With regard to a Christ who supports gay marriage, there is no biblical proof that this is so. Whereas there IS biblical proof that Our God, who is THREE in ONE, says exactly the opposite. With regard to a Christ who is pro WO .. then we’re back to the question I keep asking you .. why didn’t He appoint any women? He is God, He is the Gospel, He loves women, of that there is no doubt because He came to save them, but He didn’t ask them to do this role, do this ministry. As a woman, I must ask why.

[Sorry, Rosemary. I pushed the wrong button on my little iPod and deleted rather than published your comment by mistake).

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Rosemary,
I realise I am being somewhat confusing. I think this is because I am trying to address two problems simultaneously. My bad.

(1) As a human organisation "the Anglican Communion" is not in good shape (surely we do not disagree on that?). It is all but divided. It does seem to have at least two centres of interest, which are often described as "liberal" and "conservative". I stand by suggesting that "the Anglican Communion" in this perspective is better symbolised by an ellipse than a circle.

(2) Theologically, it is reasonable to at least pose the question, is one effect of the elliptical shaping of the human organisation that two "Christs" are thereby created? If the question is affirmatively answered then we have the challenge of seeking the true Christ, instead of following one we have created (in our own image?).

(3) On the ordination of women: might the question re Christ be this, Did (the one and only, biblical) Christ form a movement with a definitive order and structure in respect of the officers who are to lead that movement through the generations? (Or, was the order flexible and lacking definition regarding the role women might play in leadership?)

I accept that some see the character of the apostleship founded by Christ (including its gender) as definitive for all time.

I accept that some see the character of the apostleship founded by Christ as not definitive for all time.

I think there is ground for Scripture-based disagreement on such a point.

I find it difficult to see how one could argue from what Christ and the New Testament writers say about marriage that there is a lack of definition about marriage in respect of its core being a man and a woman becoming one flesh. That is, I myself cannot see how there can be Scripture-based disagreement on that point.

Peter Carrell said...

Comment from Martin, slightly moderated:

"I find it difficult to see how one could argue from what Christ and the New Testament writers say about marriage that there is a lack of definition about marriage in respect of its core being a man and a woman becoming one flesh. That is, I myself cannot see how there can be Scripture-based disagreement on that point."

Not yet you can't - but there are ex-evangelicals around, like Brian McLaren and now Steve Chalke, teaching the exact opposite of what they taught ten years ago because they now find Scripture 'problematic', 'unclear', culturally conditioned', or the real message' is about 'justice', 'inclusion' etc - in other words, some abstract, human-centered message nowhere instanced in the NT.
How can you be sure you won't be persuaded by the same line of 'argument' and experience that has brought them to this point?

The question is not 'do we pay attention to Scripture?' for even an ex-Christian like [NAME of scholar] does that. The issue is: do we OBEY the Word of God?

Martin

NOTE TO MARTIN: please don't categorise people as 'ex-Christians' here unless you have first substantiated the claim, with links etc.

Peter Carrell said...

Er, Martin,
How do you know what you will be thinking in 10 years time?

Take care, brother: you are verging on ad hominem when you start raising questions about my future, and, by implication of other words, my present obedience. Stick to issues, and do not raise the future spiritual state of anyone here, least of all me.

Anonymous said...

I thought this was pretty well known! But here he is in his own words:
http://commonsenseatheism.com/?p=1738

Martin

Anonymous said...

Your 'tu quoque' is justified, Peter - I do think about this with reference to myself, wondering how it is that faith can falter or even die (as I have seen happen in some), and how faith can be reasonable and intelligent without succumbing reaction or rationalistic fault-finding. I don't know what I'll be thinking in 10 years; I only pray that God will keep me faithful and I will not stray from Him because of external anti-Christian pressures in the world or sinful tendencies within. That's why I insist that the Word of God is first of all a matter of obedience rather than an object of study in which my reason becoems the arbiter of truth.
Yet I fear that western Anglicanism will disintegrate because of its inveterate liberal commitments which will bring schism and drive out conservatives. Those of us who have spent most of our lives within Anglicanism and in serving the church are finding this immensely painful.
Martin

liturgy said...

Pleased to see you blogging again, Peter.

Your eisegesis is devotionally helpful, and encouraging of our disciplines with the daily office and eucharist. But I think you are going to have to work harder if you are claiming that this is exegesis of Hebrews 2:1. And, conscious of Reformation attempt (in which Evangelicals claim to stand) to remove the letter to the Hebrews from the canon (forever reminding us of the oxymoronic inability of scripture alone to define what is in scripture alone), I also struggle with your claim that Hebrews is “not a new scriptural writing (as such)”. Hebrews 2:1 introduces not a call to pay attention to scripture but to what “was declared at first through the Lord, and was attested to us by those who heard him.” Yes, true, we find that now written (eisegesis) but the author was referring to what he and his readers had heard (exegesis).

Blessings on your blogging

Bosco

Shawn Herles said...

Bosco,

"And, conscious of Reformation attempt (in which Evangelicals claim to stand) to remove the letter to the Hebrews from the canon"

As I understand it Luther had problems with Hebrews, but I am not sure that amounts to a "Reformation" attempt to remove it. And at the end of the day, it is till there in the canon of both Lutheran and Reformed churches.

"forever reminding us of the oxymoronic inability of scripture alone to define what is in scripture alone"

Scripture is the Word of God, breathed out by the Spirit, and thus it does indeed define what is in scripture alone, as it is God who breathed out the canon. The Church merely recognises what God Himself as wrought.

Peter,

"Not yet you can't - but there are ex-evangelicals around, like Brian McLaren and now Steve Chalke, teaching the exact opposite of what they taught ten years ago because they now find Scripture 'problematic', 'unclear', culturally conditioned', or the real message' is about 'justice', 'inclusion' etc - in other words, some abstract, human-centered message nowhere instanced in the NT.
How can you be sure you won't be persuaded by the same line of 'argument' and experience that has brought them to this point?"

This assumes that it is in fact their view or understanding of Scripture that has changed.

But in the case of McLaren I am not convinced that that his understanding of Scripture is the driving force behind his theology. It seems clear to me that what has changed for McLaren is his political loyalty to the liberal-left, and it is this which now drives his theology.

Shawn Herles said...

Hi Martin,

"I only pray that God will keep me faithful and I will not stray from Him because of external anti-Christian pressures in the world or sinful tendencies within"

Those whom He has chosen from before the foundation of the world He will also preserve unto the end. "True believers by reason of the unchangeable love of God, and his decree and covenant to
give them perseverance, their inseparable union with Christ, his continual intercession for them,
and the Spirit and seed of God abiding in them, can neither totally nor finally fall away from the
state of grace, but are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation."

Anonymous said...

Interesting Shawn...Henry Chadwick taught me that the final perseverence of the saints in indefectable grace was incompatible with Article 16 of the 39 Articles....didnt realise the Westminster Confession was among the formularies of the Anglican Church of NZ.

Perry Canterbury

Anonymous said...

Bosco's comments are historically and theologically unconvincing.
1. Luther certainly did not speak for the Reformation in everything and some of his views on Scripture (as on the eucharist) did not prevail. Thus Calvin, Bucer and a host of followers did not find James 'an epistle of straw' and were more than happy to preach from and write commentaries on Hebrews - as are evangelicals today. I have greatly benefited from William Lane's and F. F. Bruce's work. Indeed, evangelicals love the clarity with which penal substitution is taught by Hebrews. Luther, I think, was misled by his ugly hostility to Jews and Judaism. Calvin didn't have Luther's pyrotechnics but was a wiser guide.
2. What have the people in Hebrews 2.1 "heard"? The Gospel, yes - and more than likely this includes in the form of an apostolic epistle, or even the reading of a gospel!
3. To create a 'wall of separation' between the oral message declared by Paul and the other apostles and evangelists and the inscripturated message is to dom yourself to inescapable skepticism about what was actually said - since there are no tapes or mp3's, only the sermons in Acts and the letters of the apostles.

Martin

Anonymous said...

Shawn:
I esteem the Westminster Catechism too! But we are also exhorted by Scripture - and the Lord of the Church - to 'take heed lest ye fall' and Paul notes that he must take guard, lest having run the race he is disqualified. & Hebrews is a sustained warning against spiritual drifting - one that western Anglicanism has been ignoring for a generation.
As for Brian McLaren, you may be right about his political agenda, but I have always thought him a theological lightweight, good at asking rhetorical questions about cosncience (as English teachers are wont to do), but lacking much philosophical and theological depth. He certainly isn't qualified theologically. But it is also the case that his own son is a same-sex relationship which McLaren 'blessed' and I think it is this that pushed him in that direction.
Martin

Anonymous said...

On McLaren and his son:

http://www.christianpost.com/news/brian-mclarens-son-marries-same-sex-partner-82209/

Martin

Anonymous said...

Indeed, whatever doubts Luther had about Hebbews and its place in the canon, he was joined in these by Cardinal Cajetan:

http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03145c.htm

and by Erasmus. Bruce Metzger discusses this also in 'The Canon of the NT'.

Martin

Anonymous said...

Perry: I can't speak for Henry Chadwick, but I can find nothing in Art. 16 about the final perseverance of the saints. But Art. *17* does teach Predestination to Life of those whom God 'hath chosen in Christ out of mankind, and to bring them by Christ to everlasting salvation, as vessels made to honour'.
Which is pretty much the same thing. The Articles are pretty much Calvinist in outlook - or, as I prefer, Pauline and Augustinian.

Martin

Anonymous said...

I love the way, Shawn, that all the answers are found in the Bible alone, and the way you quote that wonderful verse about true believers once saved always saved. It encourages even the saved to try such things as marriage equality, confident that while this is a first order salvation issue their salvation is assured. And if it loses their salvation – well they obviously weren’t true believers saved in the first place. Thank you for your care of the flock.

Alison

Father Ron Smith said...

"But it is also the case that his own son is (in) a same-sex relationship which McLaren 'blessed' and I think it is this that pushed him in that direction." - Martin -

And this is the way sometimes that God teaches the 'theologians' - through their own family members.

Until one has a family member who is LGB or T, one may never begin to understand the deep spiritual exigencies required to meet that difficult situation. Love is the key to many problems of theology.

(for instance, in today's Gospel on the Wedding at Cana; one might wonder what made Jesus turn water into the very best wine - when people were already 'tiddly'? My guess is that Jesus wanted to show God's unlimited hospitality in the most practical way possible.

Janice said...

This article explains to a good extent why I think that even if we do pay attention to Scripture we don't always properly understand what it has to say. Here is a key sentence. We must appreciate the fact that most people are dependent on English translations, and pretty much assume that what they read is accurate.

Among other things, the author briefly discusses the brouhaha that arose over the TNIV use of "gender-inclusive" language. That episode shows that some people are more attached to certain translation traditions, and/or certain politico/social traditions than they are to valuing accuracy in translation. Or else it shows that they don't understand how their own language has changed over the last 30-40 years. Anyone young enough to have been through high school or university since the days when it became a requirement to use gender-neutral language in essays (or, at best, be marked down) will not recognise the word 'man' as including anyone but males.

I have a friend of well-past retirement age who has great difficulty with the phrase "Kingdom of God". He keeps getting stuck, I think, on the notion that the word 'kingdom' can refer to an actual physical place separate to the actual person of the 'king'. Trying to help him I looked up the Greek and found that it can mean "Kingship of God". He found that a useful way to think about it, but every time he reads "Kingdom" in his Bible(s) he gets thrown back into puzzlement. That's not the only trouble he has with reading his English Bible and that seems to be largely because he assumes that if it's in English then it must be the sort of English he can understand without having to worry about historico/grammatical issues and all the rest.

So I don't think the question is whether or not we pay attention to Scripture but whether or not we are equipped to pay attention to Scripture - not just educationally but also psychologically. Our blind spots can be due to lack of information but they can also be due to an unwillingness to see.

Anonymous said...

The note of sarcasm aside (which is an unnecessary hindrance to helpful discussion), Alison's comment misfires in at least two respects.
1. The neologism "marriage equality" is a rhetorical secular political invention, just like most "rights" talk today. Where is the "equality" for consensual adult, permanent, stable, faithful incestuous relationships? or for consensual polygamous PSF marriages? Why are they denied "marriage equality"?
2. Our Lord had many apparent followers who took offense at his words and fell away (John 6.66 - !). Why should it be any different today? It simply a canard and a misunderstanding of Scripture to hold that the biblical (indeed, Johannine as well as Pauline) teaching that God preserves His own encourages loose and sinful living. Article 17 teaches the very opposite. The true believer desires nothing more than to please her or his Lord.
And yes, love is the key to ALL "problems in theology". But that means the love of God rather than the love that rises fitfully and confusedly from human hearts, never free from ignorance or envy. Hugh of St Victor has wonderful things to say on this.

Martin

Shawn Herles said...

Alison,

I find your logic regarding perseverance and "marriage equality" incoherent.

And I do not respond to to sarcastic personal remarks.

Perry,

Martin answered the issue of the 39 Articles, but the issue of the standing of the Westminster Standards within the AC is neither hear nor there. The 39 Articles are not exactly welcome in some circles.

Good theology, especially good confessional theology, is important today given the tendency to try and re-invent the theological wheel or worse, bend theology to the fashionable idols of the age.

Shawn Herles said...

God's love is certainly the key to good theology, but God's love and human "love" are not the same thing.

The human heart is a factory of idols.

Father Ron Smith said...

"The human heart is a factory of idols." - commentator -

Except, of course, for conservative hearts?

Peter Carrell said...

Au contraire, Ron!

A true conservative theology, especially if we nuance that further as a 'conservative evangelical' theology, understands the tendency to make idols as universal, and most dangerous for those who take up the role of teacher of the faith.

Shawn Herles said...

ALL human hearts.

I made no distinctions.

Bryden Black said...

For those who wish to engage with one of the very best theological studies of Scripture to be written for many years: John Webster, Holy Scripture - a Dogmatic Sketch (CUP, 2003). Tolle! Lege!

He casts much light on a number of comments here ...