This weeks "thought" comes from Robert E. Webber in one of the last books he wrote before passing away in 2007 -- his book "Ancient-Future Worship." In the book he considers how we can learn to reach our postmodern culture by taking clues from theearly church fathers. His words are good food for thought. I offer them to you for your consideration. Enjoy.
"The modern way of reading and preaching the Scriptures has become problematic. We moderns have stood over theNew Testament texts with our historical, literary, and linguistic tools, picking away the brush to uncover the one single meaning the author intended to convey...
The more experiential and postmodern approach to texts called 'reader-response theory'... disregards the author's intent and argues the meaning of the text is the meaning the reader takes away from it. This highly subjective approach to reading is the other side of the pendulum to the modern problem of privileging reason and science. If a text means whatever a reader thinks it means, it has no real meaning.
So here we are in a postmodern world, stuck between two dead ends. Is there a pathway out of the road that will lead us away from extreme objectivism on the one hand, and from extreme subjectivism on the other hand? There is...
Most of us have been shaped by a Greek mind-set. Like the Greeks, we are given to intellectual analysis. We want to categorize an systematize everything in life... We want order, and we want to understand life and control it. We bring this mind-set to the Bible and insist on controlling how it is to be interpreted. We stand over the Bible and become the judge of its truthfulness. We must remember the roots of Christianity are Hebrew, not Greek. Jesus was a Jew. So were his disciples...
Sometimes the culture into which Christianity has become contextualized reshapes and even distorts the Christian message. The Bible then gets read through that culture. That's what has happened in America and throughout the . We corrupt the Bible when we turn it into a manifesto for the American way of life, for individualism, for consumerism, for political clout.
If we are going to stand within and under the Bible as the ancients did, we must turn our backs on the Greek insistence on intellectualizing, categorizing, and controlling the Bible. We must begin to read the Bible holistically, relationally and passionately....
In the Greek mind-set, which I reject, prayer and a relationship to God constitute the 'sacred' part of life, separate from work, fun, marriage, or relationships, which constitute the 'secular' part of life. This approach sets aside moments to 'get alone with God.'
However, the ancient, biblical mindset sees the whole day and indeed all of life -- work, fun, marriage and relationships -- as the realm of the sacred. God is everywhere, at all places, in all times. There is no escaping the , for God's Spirit is the one who gives life to all of life. This holistic mind-set takes history seriously and sees God
involved in all history from beginning to end... God is not an absent, ethereal essence who sits in the sky and demands worship. God is the God who acts, who lives and moves and has has being in the world and among the people.
Affirm that God is disclosed in every detail of human existence. Then, stand inside the Bible and God's story and let it teach you to look out into the creation where God is signified everywhere, yet particularized in Jesus, the ultimate icon of God. [The narrative of the whole Scripture is about
There is much truth in what he says. So maybe you could do a short exercise to move in the direction he speaks about. Pretend all you had was an Old Testament (like the ). Then try using it alone (like Paul) and "explain and prove that Jesus was the Christ." (Acts 17:2-3) Begin "with Moses and all the Prophets, and explain what was said in all the (Old Testament) Scriptures about Him." (Luke 24:27).
Until you've tried, you haven't put yourself in the place of the early disciples and apostles, nor read the Bible holistically, or understood that "the narrative of the whole of Scripture is about Jesus Christ."
Give it a try. It's fun! In Him, Pastor Jeff
Dr. Jeffrey F. Evans