Thursday, March 30, 2006

The Nature of Scripture 3

(continued from The Nature of Scripture 2)

The traditional view of scripture treats the biblical texts like a cause, the effect of which (through connecting individual details together) is the formation of a theology, moral, ethic, universal principle, truth system, etc. The obvious benefit is that it always has something to say—relevance—to any culture, time, or context. The question is whether what it has so say from this model is in any sense true.

A better view would treat scripture as an end product or effect. Scripture writers took for granted that a fundamental string already existed and wrote their texts under the assumption that because their readers already had the string, they only had to describe details accordingly. In this model, the pre-existing string is narrative/story and world-view. Details (like verses, words, and grammatical constructions) are branches that veer off and away from the string in order to bring that world-view and story into context with a multifaceted and changing world. This is shown in the following graphical representation:

This is what I call the historical view of scripture. The details only have meaning in association with the string from which they originate and how they make that world-view and story make sense in the world outside the string into which they reach. Therefore, the details can sometimes be drastically different or even conflicting and contradictory if compared to each other, since their origin may occur in different places on the string and reach out into different contexts in the world. Instead of judging the truth of a matter by making sure individual details connect, this model allows for individual details to say different things at different times for different purposes according to where on the story and world-view those details emerge without losing truth, without resorting to relativism, and without destroying the entire system.

It is therefore the world-view and narrative that is the focus and is most important in scripture--not the individual details and grammatical pieces. The details come from the string, not the string from the details. Although the details change based on the string and based on the world into which they reach, the string remains the same despite the details or the world outside it.

(to be continued)


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