Books seek to shed light on the Word of God

By on September 1, 2002

here can be no question that the bishops’ meeting at Lambeth 1998 created a flashpoint in the affairs of the Anglican Communion. While it is normal for the conference to pass resolutions, never before have any of its actions been considered legislative rather than consultative and informative. The resolution on homosexuality has become a hornet’s nest of division with those of conservative viewpoint suggesting that their authority rests on the Lambeth resolution and the word of Scripture. What was most disturbing at the time was the nastiness surrounding the debate that has now spread throughout the Communion, fomenting ill will and division. At some point the question of whether or not a Lambeth meeting of bishops should become a centralized legislative body must be examined but in the meantime the nature and understanding of Biblical authority requires the attention of us all. Few Christians would deny the power, the authority and the revelation that is to be found through the “Word of God” but when it comes to understanding what is the Word of God, and how it applies to understanding God’s will, debates have flourished for centuries. In an attempt to reduce the heat and shed some light, Christopher Bryan, New Testament scholar and an Anglican priest on the faculty of the School of Theology at the University of the South in Sewanee, Tenn. has written And God Spoke, The Authority of the Bible for the Church Today. This is a well written, carefully reasoned presentation which will be helpful to both clergy and laity who struggle with how to interpret what they read in the Scriptures in the face of the factions, sectarian and divisive, which claim an absolute authority of interpretation, usually their own. The book is divided into two parts. In the first he examines the question, “What Do We Believe?” All those words we associate with the Bible appear: witness, revelation, text, inspired, canon, authority, the Word. He concludes this part, “The authority of Scripture, like the authority of Paul and the authority of Christ, lies essentially in its invitation to enter into a relationship and to share a life.” The second part brings it all down to earth, “What Should We Do?” He begins with the role of listening and writes, “The church that truly acknowledges the authority of Scripture is not the church that shouts loudest about the subject or makes the loftiest declarations. It is the church that reads and listens to Scripture, bathing in it and absorbing it, at the daily office and at the eucharist, in public prayer and in private, in Bible classes and study groups, lay and ordained, day by day, week by week.” He moves on from listening to the serious business of Bible study and how it should be approached and then to the process of “Making Decisions in the Light of the Bible.” Overall he opens a path for understanding the Bible as a conveyance for God’s loving Word today rather than as a cudgel with which to bludgeon those with whom we might disagree. [blockquote]The parables in the New Testament, the stories Jesus told, reveal the teacher’s talent. There have been many books written about the parables because each reading of them reveals something more than what was previously understood. Simon J. Kistemaker in The Parables has written a commentary covering all the parables and parabolic sayings recorded in the Synoptic Gospels from an evangelical perspective. In a helpful introduction he outlines in general terms the forms, composition, purpose, principles and classification of parables and in a section on interpretation he provides an historical overview from the early church to the 20th century. He then proceeds from a firm evangelical viewpoint to review the parables, bringing to light truths in the story telling which reflect the eternal truth of the gospel to be found in the person of Jesus revealing the Father’s will. Undoubtedly other scholars will have quibbles with some of his interpretations and applications in today’s world but that is what adds to the fascination of these stories. There is no end to the possibilities including what may be triggered in the reader’s mind. Stories are told for people and it is people responding to what they inwardly hear that validates the stories. Sharing of how others respond is part of the process. Acknowledging that each gospel writer uses his own skills, insights and abilities in presenting the parables the author casts no doubt on whose parables they are: “The parables originated with Jesus. He created them, he now speaks through them, and in them he makes himself known to his people.”

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