Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Biblical Criticism or The Powerful Word of God?

I've just submitted my fourth (out of seven) assignment for the semester.  It's a rather satisfying feeling to hit that 'submit' button and be done with a piece of work that has challenged the very heart of what I believe about the Bible.

Over the past few weeks, in my Religious Education unit, we have been looking at Biblical criticism.  You may have heard of the words hermeneutics or exegesis.  Essentially it is the scholarly, scientific methods through which scripture is examined, interpreted and understood.  I have come away from these past few weeks feeling like the only way to understand the Bible is to have a theological degree in hermeneutics and ancient languages.  I have felt uptight, tense and ill-at-ease.  Critical methods for interpreting the Bible are helpful - there is no doubt about that.  I have learnt that some of the perceived inconsistencies can actually be explained.  In so many ways I have had "aha" moments about the Bible.

And yet.

There are a ridiculous number of methods for interpreting the Bible.  Methods that are complex and hotly debated amongst scholars; old methods superseded by new methods, each looking at the Bible through its own lens, looking for particular things.  Each method brings something different to the table.  But they are all human endeavours.  All human perspectives on what the Bible says, about what the original author may have intended and about the life context of the first readers.  So I have been cautious and I have had this wariness deep within. 

Tonight I figured it out.  A beautifully expressed quote from R C Sproul in his book Five Things Every Christian Needs to Grow (thank you internet!!) eloquently nailed the heart of the problem I had been wrestling with:
"The Bible is also profitable for reproof and correction, 
which we as Christians continually need. It is fashionable 
in some academic circles to exercise scholarly criticism 
of the Bible. In so doing, scholars place themselves 
above the Bible and seek to correct it. If indeed 
the Bible is the Word of God, nothing could be 
more arrogant. It is God who corrects us; we don’t 
correct Him. We do not stand over God but under Him" 
(from Chapter 1, emphasis mine)

Whilst interpretation methods can be really helpful, the Bible is so powerful all on its own.  It is God-breathed (or inspired, depending on your version).  It reveals the character and heart of the God who created us.  It reveals the incredible and perfect love our God us for us.  It convicts us, directs us, instructs us and transforms us.  The Bible is powerful enough to change the very hearts and lives of people without scholarly explanation.

My assignment has been submitted.  My world has been righted.


Left-Handed Housewife said...

An interesting post, Tracy! While I think it's important to let the Bible do its work on us, in some ways to let the Bible "read us," the fact is, as readers we are always interpreters, and as we are reading the Bible in English, I don't think we're wrong to investigate, question and ponder. Just my two cents!


jude's page said...

Very good post, thankyou. I agree with your conclusion, and don't believe we are meant to understand it all yet, somethings we just need to exercise our faith and all will be revealed at the end.

Tracy said...

I don't think we're wrong to explore and investigate and question and ponder either. But this unit has tipped over from questioning, pondering and seeking clarification to making one feel like there are so many errors that it's all just a pile of rubbish.

Fiona said...

I've just visited your blog after seeing a comment of yours at Pleasantview Schoolhouse, I'm enjoying your blog. This is a thought-provoking post. Love that quote, and your comments, it has helped me thinking of a certain skeptic in my life who passes everything through a scientific/ logic filter. Based on human reason of the last century or so! God is bigger than that. (of course we musn't neglect context, careful reading, etc either). Hope your lecturer likes your assignment.