This week Church Times reprints an article by Jimmy from 2013 which demonstrates his carefulness in scholarship and clarity in making an argument - on this occasion on reading Scripture with respect to arguments for and against the ordination of women. (From memory I think 2013 was when the CofE agreed to proceed with ordaining women as bishops.)
It can seem fraught “rereading Scripture”, after all, where might it end?
But we have to do it. This past week I have been pulled up with a start to find that Jonathan Edwards - yes, the Jonathan Edwards beloved of many evangelicals, influential for centuries on the ministries of well known preachers and theologians - owned slaves ... and thought this was consistent with Scripture.
I have just started reading A.C. Grayling’s The Age of Genius in which he argues that the 17th century gave birth to the “modern mind.” Inter alia, p. 9, he mentions Cardinal Bellarmino’s 1615 reply to Paolo Foscarini’s argument that Copernicus’ heliocentric model of the universe was consistent with Scripture. Bellarmino argues that the heliocentric model contradicts not only the interpretation of Scripture by the “holy Fathers” but also “modern commentators.”
Four hundred years later (1) no teacher of Scripture within the mainstream of Western and Eastern Christianity, no matter how wonderful she or he finds the “holy Fathers” thinks them correct on this matter, and no (2) “modern commentator” of 20th or 21st centuries teaches what Bellarmino asserts.
Scripture has been reread!
Part 2 or “further thoughts”
The trick, I suggest, with rereading Scripture is not to assume (whether eagerly or fearfully) that all rereading heads in only one direction (from the thin end of the wedge to the thick end?).
Even rereadings need rerereading.
Consider, many of the first Christians read Scripture in respect of military service through the lens of Jesus and determined that Christians could not join in the violence of war. Then, Constantine and all that, a rereading led to an acceptance of the validity of military service and fighting in wars (albeit with hope that all wars one was conscripted for were “just wars”). 1700 years later has that rereading settled the matter once and for all? Not really. Many Christians today are wary of military service and for a range of sound reasons, from unwillingness to kill another human being under any circumstances to healthy cynicism about the true aims and aspirations of warring nations. And many Christians think its okay ... just the other day I read a news item about a Russian Orthodox cathedral devoted to the military!
One could go on ...
I won’t save for observing that the importance of doing theology is doing that which continually assesses claims to true understanding of the purposes of God.