Biblical Authority, Postmodernism, and Patristic Hermeneutics…

It has been almost nine months now since my article “Postmodern Biblical Authority?” was published on www.theooze.com. I have heard many positive comments and some critiques, but nevertheless it has been a fun journey (it is funny how most of the critique has happened on the comments section of the article on The Ooze). This article was not so much addressing the ‘whole’ of my view of Biblical authority (for that, read The Last Word: Scripture and the Authority of God–Getting Beyond the Bible Wars ), but rather it served as my attempt to explore the ability to hold to ‘biblical authority’ from a postmodern perspective. Well, I am honored that Mark J. Boone has now written a “response” article to complement what I have already written titled “Ancient-Future Biblical Authority: A Reply to Kurt.” He addresses the issue of biblical authority from a ‘pre-modern’ or ‘patristic’ perspective, rather than from the viewpoint of fundamentalism. I appreciate much of his approach (with some nuancing), and would like to hear your thoughts on a ‘side-by-side’ reading of the articles. How does pre-modern/patristic readings help us understand biblical authority in a postmodern world? What other insights came to you as you read?

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  • http://groansfromwithin.com Kurt

    Very interesting conversation happening here. Let me say simply to Dan that I agree with what you said in comment 1 in regards to not quoting wright’s view about ‘god’s authority, christ’s authority, somehow exercised through the bible.’

    but, in my own defense, the purpose of my article was not to expound a complete view of biblical authority, but rather to demonstrate that even from a fully postmodern perspective one can arrive at the bible’s practical authority (meaning how God’s authority through the text is actually lived out). In other words, i was focused on metanarrative, modernism, ‘nothing behind the text,’ etc; and not the issue of a doctrine of biblical authority. Rather I wanted to demonstrate that the bible doesn’t fit into the modern categories that it is often been subjected to due to modernism/fundamentalism. If I were to write a paper on the subject of “the doctrine of biblical authority” then I would 100 percent affirm wright’s view as it is my very own perspective!

    Other than that, I am really enjoying the conversation between you (Dan) and our new friend Mark.

    Grace and Peace!

  • http://nailtothedoor.blogspot.com/ Dan Martin

    Thanks for highlighting this, Kurt. I read your article months ago, but re-read it in order to parallel it with Boone’s response.

    My response to both of you, I think (but particularly to Boone) would be that neither does enough to take the authority question back a step further–to recognize that, as Wright says in The Last Word referenced above (great book BTW):

    “When we say ‘the authority of scripture’, then, we mean – if we know our business – God’s authority, Christ’s authority, somehow exercised through the Bible.”

    Boone in particular refers to patristic authority–Augustine is his most frequently-cited source in this article–and the authority of the scriptural authors, as in the following:

    “In acknowledging the authority of the original meaning of Scripture, this ancient hermeneutics also satisfies a major concern of the “fundamentalists” Willems mentions, for it relies on the fundamental authority of the authors of Scripture. The doctrine of Biblical inerrancy seeks to preserve this authority. The central thrust of The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy is the attribution of infallible authority to the intent of its human authors.”

    I’m uncomfortable with this notion, as you well know. I advocate that we should stop looking at scripture monolithically, and rather learn to parse God’s word from man’s words within the text, and give priority to the former, looking to scripture as a reliable witness to the times (rare though they have been) when God has spoken to humanity. The “authority” of scripture, rightly seen, is merely that of a faithful witness to what the true authority, Jesus the Anointed King, has said and done.

  • Mark J. Boone

    Dan,

    Thanks for leaving this remark on Kurt’s page. I agree with you on where you DO locate Biblical authority; I just disagree on where you DON’T locate Biblical authority. The main points of my article are, first, that we can locate Biblical authority BOTH in the written text AND in Christ shining through the text; and, second, that this excellent way is cherished by our Christian forbears. I happen to think it is a more excellent way.

    • http://nailtothedoor.blogspot.com/ Dan Martin

      I understood your point, Mark. I just didn’t agree–with you OR our cherished Christian forbears. I believe they–and many Evangelicals–set up the text as nearly a divine being in itself, and fail to properly recognize that to accept a witness as faithful is not to confuse witness and message, or that being witnessed TO. I am not accusing you of this, but I do believe that many Evangelicals come dangerously close to idolatry in their reverence of the written text. Equally dangerous, they often ascribe to the patristics an authority near, if not equivalent, to canonical scripture. I demand that both be subjected to the character of Jesus, and I believe (as I have argued) that approaching the written scripture for where it self-represents as God speaking, provides us with a reasonable tool to rightly discern the difference.


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