Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Thoughts on Unleashing the Scripture

So, some friends of mine and I are making an attempt at having an online book club. We read a book and post reflections about the assigned sections. What follows are my reflections about the first part of the book Unleashing the Scriptures by Stanley Hauerwas:

  • His basic argument is that the bible can not be read individually. There is no "true" meaning that lies unchanged in the scriptures that can be understood by an unaided solitary reader. We can not read scripture outside of an interpretive community. The myth of the rugged individual, so prevalent in the psychology of the United States, has corrupted our reading of Scripture.

  • on p. 16 he says, that he doesn't believe that each person has the right to interpret the scriptures.
    • I agree with this, however, considering the fallen nature of institutions, I'm nervous about giving institutions sole interpretive power.

  • I think he suggests but I wish he would say outright that the bible can only speak to us when read in the tension of relationships, specifically the relationships of Christian Community

  • When we read the bible as individuals we cannot resist the demonic temptation to interpret the scriptures in a manner that requires the least change in us.

  • On the other hand when we read scripture in community, especially a community that already has binds on us, we have correctives available to us that keep us from creating the bible in our own image nor making an idol of the bible

  • I can agree with him to the extent that the community has a mechanism for self correction. For example in my tradition, we have a hierarchical structure, which presents some problems in its own right, but there are methods by which the community as a whole prayerfully discerns the corporate interpretation of scripture and direction of the Church

  • because of the fallen nature of institutions I could not get behind a top down interpretaion of scripture where there is one individual, or even a small group of individuals, deciding what everyone else is to believe.

  • I agree that a community is needed for the rightful interpretation of scripture in so much as everyone exercises a voice in the community.


Bob G+ said...

I'm going to add my two cents, not having read the book but just commenting on your perceptions (lazy way of doing this, I guess, but there you go!).

With a lot of the living out of the Christian faith, I take the deserted island scenario that might suggest what is and isn't really necessary to live a life in relationship with God. So...

That lowly person could certainly read the Scriptures and understand what God would have him/her do in most all situations s/he faces, particularly regarding relationships with God and His creation.

I think this is true for us even in very crowded situations, but we have to understand that we read Scripture to better understand how to be in right relationships with one another, God, and His creation is one thing. Reading Scripture to formulate dogma or doctrine is something entirely different.

We don't necessarily need a community to read Scripture for the living out of everyday life with regard to relational aspects of life. We certainly need community to figure out dogma,theology, and doctrine.

One of the problems with only allowing for interpretation within community is that our cultures are as screwed up as are individuals or groups. So, if the culture believes in slavery, than we will interpret Scripture to support slavery, etc. If we say that Scripture can only be rightly understood in community, without the individualistic aspects of Scriptural interpretation and relationship, Wilberforce, as an example, may never have risen up to oppose the slave trade.

Just thoughts.

Joel said...

It would be hard to love your neighbor or anyone else on a deserted island. I guess there would be a "natural religion" or Gaia spirituality or something with the rest of the island, but,

Without human flesh and blood, the only thing left for the Christian is a "spiritual" life, which without flesh and blood becomes more and more gnostic.

The Church IS the Living Flesh and Blood Body of Christ, and it is Christ who speaks when the Scriptures are heard, not read (to oneself)The Ethiopian Eunuch discovered that, and Peter in his Epistle says right out that interpretation of Scripture can NOT be done by the individual. The WORD became Flesh (and Blood), and was heard, not TEXT and read to oneself. Indeed, there was no TEXT until very late.

Me too, just thinking outloud.

Read the book first!