Listening to God

Anyone who engages in public discussions about the Bible seems to follow a predictable path — one learns most people don’t care or reverence the Bible, many think it’s all a matter of interpretation, and along come the apologists who think the Bible’s inerrancy has to be defended in order to maintain its authority, and then it becomes clear that authority is one of the problems … and we’re in a vicious cycle.

This is why David Fitch and Geoff Holsclaw, in Prodigal Christianity, seek another angle to framing our understanding of Scripture. Is it about propositions (Al Mohler) or loving propositions (John Piper)? (They use words from each on these matters.) Fitch contends that “inerrancy” is too liberal because in the end it means some human is proving the reliability or truthfulness of the Bible, which often means it corresponds to some scientifically-demonstrable reality. They contend the Bible is “the living expression of the gospel itself in Jesus Christ” (70).

Brian McLaren proposed the Bible as a portable library; Fitch and Holsclaw push back and ask who decides what goes in the library, and who is the librarian, and why this library?

Their contention is that the text is not something we can control, and Geoff explains how his exegesis class in seminary taught him to master the Bible but he needed to relearn how to listen to the Bible. The text is something to proclaim according to its inner logic: the Story of God in Jesus Christ. From that proclamation of the kingdom the Bible begins to function as it is supposed to. “This, then, is the mission of the prodigal God: to restore blessing where there is cursing, to restore peace among humanity, creation, and God, to bring salvation to the whole earth. And it is only within this story, the mission of the prodigal God, that we can understand the authority of Scripture” (78).

“Therefore it is not so important to find the kingdom of God in Scripture but to submit to Scripture in the kingdom of God” (78). Their illustrations about reading the Scripture aloud in a community of faith and listening to God speak and discerning what God is saying in the context of that community of faith.

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  • Discerning what the Most High is saying is critical – how can I obey if I do not hear? Clearly we need more than JUST the Bible, even if we can agree which books are in and which are out, even if we could agree what each passage means, even if we could agree which translation is ‘best’, even if we could all read the Hebrew and Greek original text, even if we could agree which compilations of the ‘original’ text are correct.

    And anyway, who wrote the Bible? We say the books are inspired, by which we mean that the authors co-operated with the Spirit of Christ. But what about today? Are today’s writers and teachers inspired in the same way? If not, are they inspired in a substantially different way? Were the compilers of the accepted canon inspired? Which accepted canon?

    In the end, however you look at it, it must come down to the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ. He inspired the writers and the compilers and the translators and he must also inspire the readers.

    What a minefield! Brave is the one who will try to chart a course through it and claim it is the only way through or the ‘right’ way through.

    Obviously there is much that is generally agreed, but eq

  • Whoops… I was just about to finish with ‘but equally there is much that will always be debated.’