scripture, textual interpretation, theology

Conforming and Context

Welcome back to people who have just noticed I wrote a new post (this one). Sorry about the hiatus, I’ve been moving, and my internet is a little sketchy until the Aliant people finally decide to show up and install my internet. Anyway, enough of my troubles.

My plan is to start a series on authority beginning tomorrow. For tonight, I’d like to talk a little bit about scripture.

To cut to the quick: Scripture is not primarily a text, it’s a [con]text.

What do I mean by that? Besides the fact that I like square brackets.

It’s pretty simple really. Scripture is special in the way it functions to a believer. That’s not news to any Christian, yet in large measure, when we examine scripture exegetically, it seems to me we treat it much as we would any other text. This is strange, since the way we read texts generally (in the post-modern west) is to concern ourselves with what we see in the text, and thus the preaching we get comes simply from the informed opinion of the exegete (the preacher).

Indeed, scripture is a text, and there is a level odf subjectivity we face as we see it from a human perspective. But it is more. When Christians say that the Bible is truth, we are not saying that it is a text that contains true propositions, but that the Bible enunciates the actual history and meaning for everything. It is itself the context by which Christians interpret the texts of their lives.

This means that it is a little silly to speak of applying the text to our lives. That’s backwards; the task is to apply our lives to the scripture, the [con]text. This is slightly different than calling what is contained in the Bible a metanarrative. We, as Christians, by reading scripture are placing ourselves within God’s reading of the world. We are to be conformed to the text, not vice versa. While we wrestle with the text, as Jacob wrestled with God, we are not “negotiating” a meaning. We are becoming meaningful ourselves. It’s a pretty one sided negotiation, the Holy Spirit transforms us into the image of Christ, through the work of the Holy Spirit as we are placed in the [con]text of scripture.

So, the end result is that we are called to read scripture, not as a text that “speaks for itself” in some fasion of narrative theology, but we are to read ourselves as texts to be interpreted by the work of God as expressed scripturally.

Neitzsche once said that “if you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you”. That is not only true of an abyss (which I think is the reason those that ruminate long on evil become conformed to the evil they ruminate on, or those who gaze long at meaninglessness soon see themselves as meaningless), but of anything of ultimate significance.

Indeed, I gaze long into the Word of God, that the Word of God might gaze into me, and in perceiving me as I am, change me to what the Word is. A good thing, since it is my goal to be conformed to the image of the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ.

There are more implications I can think of, but it’s late, and I have class in the morning. If anybody is interested, lemme know and I’ll write on this again.


One thought on “Conforming and Context

  1. Georgina says:

    An interesting post – the power of God working in our lives – do you think that’s why we (well, Me) struggle to read the scripture – because it will change us and we don’t want it to?

    On an aside: I couldn’t help but grin every time you wrote [con] text. The dodgiest Australian tv channel is currently marketing a show called [con]test where you outbluff your opponent to win.

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