Greek Conference

This weekend, I'm at InterVarsity's Greek Conference in Charlotte, NC. Check out the GC blog if you're interested -
Dave Shepley updates way more regularly that I ever will. ;)

Third, how should we respond to invalid understandings of Scripture?

After quite a bit of time away from the blog, I'm just going to toss out a couple of ideas on this topic, as promised...

First, before we can respond, we need to be made aware of these invalid understandings (in ourselves as wel as in others). This is why it's so important to read Scripture in community - in community with our brothers and sisters in Christ from around the world and throughout history as well as, most importantly, in community with the Holy Spirit who dwells within us.

Second, check out this article on perspective and preference:

Third, be humble and gentle. Nine times out of ten the invalid things our friends believe are not core issues, not worth quarreling about, and not as clear as we think.

Lastly, I've found it helpful when I get frustrated by talking about these ideas and feel that truth is escaping me to know that:
"Biblical truth, the truth in which the people of God are called to concrete, historcal truth. It does not exist in a world of pure ideas but rather is closely bound with bread and wine, with justice and peace, with a coming Reign of God-a Reign not over pure ideas or over disembodied souls but over a new society and a renewed history" (Gonzalez, Manana, p. 50).

How do perspectives shape evaluations of truth-claims?

For centuries, people used Scripture to condone the practice of slavery. Paul's letters, the mark God placed on Cain, God's cursing of Ham - these all spoke more loudly than the big pictures of Image and Likeness and "proving neighbor."

Have any of you been in a conversation recently with a follower of Jesus who sincerely believed that the Bible was pro-slavery? To be honest, I haven't. I've had people accuse me of believing in a holy book that supports and justifies evil (like slavery). But I've never had someone try to convince me that the Bible supports slavery and that slavery is a good thing.

Now, the Biblical material as it relates to slavery is tricky. It's worth thinking through and thinking through well.

But isn't it interesting that we give little time to thinking about slavery? We rarely talk about it. It's rarely discussed in our churches or around our dinner tables. We're pretty confident in what we believe about this subject, even though we haven't worked through all of the difficulties associated with the aforementioned Biblical materials.

Now, is our certainty on this issue related to some progress we've had in the field of hermeneutics? Sure, somewhat. But certainly not in its entirely. Some of our certainty has to do with our perspective.

Our cultural perspective tells us that slavery is wrong. And I think this is a great thing because it really lines up with the Bible's teaching on this topic, especially when the Bible's read rigorously.

What we have to come to terms with, and this is really difficult, is the possibility that our flawed perspectives are constantly making truth-claims, constantly telling us how to interpret Scripture. Sometimes, it works out wonderfully. Sometimes, it doesn't.

So what about when perspectives contradict the Biblical witness? How do we know when this has happened and what can we do about it? This is the core question I'd guess the person who dropped it into the box was wondering. It's what I'll post on soon. ;)

Is there such a thing as an incorrect perspective of Scripture?

In the Perspective talk, I outlined the "perspective as landscape" idea mentioned in Santa Biblia by Justo Gonzalez. I won't review it all here, but one of his points bears repeating. Although we each have different perspectives on the landscape, we're looking at the same landscape. Do you remember that?

When I'm talking about perspective, I'm talking about how who we are influences our understanding of Scripture. Because every human is unique, every human has a unique perspective if and when they approach Scripture, right? Although readers of Scripture have different perspectives, we know that they read the same Scripture. So, one might imagine that they come to the same basic conclusions when they read it? Well, do these different readers always agree as to the meaning of Scripture? Not hardly. In fact, people often disagree on what they are reading or understanding. In fact, sometimes they disagree in ways that really seem irreconcilable.

So, where does this leave us with our question?

Well...I think this question circles back to a deeper, more fundamental question: are people flawed? If people are flawed, corrupted in some deep and meaningful ways, then it would make sense that their perspectives on Scripture are, at times, flawed. Remember, perspective is about how who we are influences our ability to see things. If who we are is 'flawed,' then our ability to see things will be 'flawed' as well.

And this is one reason why perspective is so important. By utilizing the various perspectives available in the church, we can, in part, work around our flawed individual perspectives and receive correction when our flaws lead us hermeneutically astray.

The slavery example from the original question illustrates this nicely. But that will have to wait for another post.

True perspective

"In keeping with your 'perspectives' talk, if you do run into an incorrect perspective of scripture (ie. slavery is condoned) - what rock of certainty or absolute truth do you turn to - what TRUE perspective do you use to determine whether it's valid or not?" - AM Question

What a terrific question!

I really wanted to get into this in my talk, but had to leave it on the cutting room floor. I'm really glad someone followed me up on this.

I'm going to break this question up into three different, smaller questions, so you can read the chunk that interests you most.

First, is there such a thing as an incorrect perspective of Scripture?
Second, how do perspectives shape evaluations of truth-claims?
Third, how should we respond to invalid understandings of Scripture?