Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Reading Scripture Wrightly to become a Scripture-formed Communion

Also from Journal of Anglican Studies Vol 7.2 (November 2009), a special issue on Lambeth 2008, is Bishop Tom Wright arguing passionately and picturesquely for Anglicans to engage more deeply, widely, and intensively in reading Scripture, privately and corporately. The article is entitled, "A Scripture-formed Communion? Possibilities and Prospects after Lambeth, ACC, and General Convention."

Not least in pressing this argument is the frustration Bishop Tom felt at the inadequacies of the Bible study material produced for Lambeth and at the low-levels of engagement on evidence in the Bible study groups. A significant point Bishop Tom argues repeatedly (that is, 'repeatedly' in the sense of a motif recurring through a great piece of music, not 'ad nauseam'!) is that too often too many Anglicans, on the right and the left, make superficial assumptions about the nature of ethics in the Bible, failing to reckon with 'the whole counsel of God' and with the character of the kingdom of God. Here is just one slice of Wrights rich fare [with his italics]:

"... the Bible itself demands to be read within a layered and nuanced hermeneutic. We cannot suppose that we can read any passage from the Old Testament and apply it 'directly' to ourselves; many parts come through with flying colours through the climactic and decisive events of Jesus' Kingdom-bringing life, death, and resurrection, and indeed with their emphases enhanced, but many other parts are left happily behind, their task complete. That, indeed, is what much of the letter to the Galatians is all about: the law had a temporary purpose, and when that purpose is accomplished those bits of the law can be wisely set aside, not as archaic or ill-informed rstrictive practices that we've now outgrown, but as necessary earlier elements in a plan which has now reached a new stage at which those elements, no longer required, are rightly to be shelved. The amphibious craft switches off the propeller when it comes on shore, not because the propeller was a bad thing we shouldn't have used in the first place but because it was a good thing which has completed its water-related job.

"All these reflections about new creation raise the question: how can we, within the church, teach one another to read Scripture with our eyes open to its deep and rich overall narrative, so that we can have the real debates that we should be having rather than the shallow ones we should have outgrown?" (pp. 172-73)

How, indeed!

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