In studying hermeneutics and interpretative practices in my final semester at Fuller, it’s been wild to consider the many ways in which we all, from varying point of views and contexts, approach and attempt to make sense of the Bible.
In this week’s focus on inter-textuality (how the biblical authors draw upon outside sources), the professor stated something a little shocking, but refreshing to hear.
Don’t fret about injuring the Word; it’s more resilient than we are. Don’t worry about making a mistake or about leading the rest of us astray. “Sin boldly,” as Luther used to say. Pursue your task honestly and energetically. The entire concept of learning entails our being wrong about something! Keep learning and trying to apply what you learn, all the while in willingness to listen to your peers. Trust the rest of us — no matter what century or what nation we come from — to call you out if you step off the road, and we know you’ll do the same for us. When it works, that’s how it works; it’s a community thing. For it is we the Church, the totality of us, whom the Spirit leads into all truth, rather than any one of us all by ourselves.R. Erickson | Biblical Studies Professor +30yrs at Fuller
How often we are told, as believers, to hold tightly our beliefs concerning doctrine and faith. Little encouragement is given to the pursuit of learning, it’s so often the pursuit of certainty, as if Christianity is about possessing the right cognitive information. Learning requires unlearning. Ignorance in the NT is not simply the lack of information or data, but the possession of hostile or foreign ideas that aren’t native to God’s revelation in Jesus.
As I spoke with my son Clark last night, we mused over the ideas of knowing vs growing, of the dangers of thinking we are the sum of our beliefs. We are so much more than what we think, we are loved, valued, and pursued by the God of the Universe not because we think rightly, but even as we don’t, because our God is love. I used to think you need to think rightly to be know God rightly. What folly. We are, all of us, coming from imperfect perches, shaped by our culture, our context, our biases.
What if we approached knowing God as a collective, exploration up a mountain? It’s peak too high to ever reach, but up and forward we climb. What if, instead of assuming battle positions around the Word of Life, we admitted our narrow views, limited exposure and learning, and came to God as children, mining His Word as our kids might hunt for treasure in the forest? What if we all just admitted we are wrong, in so many ways, in thought, attitude, and that but for God’s deep mercy and loving posture towards us, we’d be quite lost and alone in this world?
God’s revelation in Christ is solidified, communicated, and clearly seen in Scripture. Start, and define God through the lens of the Son, and let the Spirit guide you through the rest of the formation process. All the other pet ideas of God and the universe, allow them to be aligned under the illuminating Son of God, align within the wake of His perfect mediating revelation. If we construe a God that cannot harmonize with Christ, we can be sure we have bigger problems than injuring doctrines in the Bible, for then, we’ve assumed God is something other than the Word become flesh.