Sunday, September 28, 2008

What I've learned in the past week, Vol 1

THEOLOGY ALERT THEOLOGY ALERT

I'll try and warn those of you less interested in the business-side of what I'm doing slightly before I talk about it.

1) So, apparently, according to tradition, the Pentateuch (first five books of the Bible) were written by Moses. This opinion had not formed a central part of my thinking, so I was not much dismayed when I discovered that modern biblical scholarship posits no fewer than four (and possibly more) different sources for the text we now have. I'll offer my little piece of proof - compare the creation narratives in Gen. 1 and Gen 2 - the sharp contrast between THE LORD who speaks creation into existence, and the God who plants a garden and sews clothing for his creations. This hasn't created a particular theological problem for me - it's been pretty darned interesting, though.

2) What can we know about God? And how? Can we see Him in creation? If we can see Him in creation, how does that fit into our issue of true knowledge of God coming from scripture? In essence, I'm going to have to side with Calvin on this.

For as the aged, or those whose sight is defective, when any book however fair, is set before them, though they perceive that there is something written are scarcely able to make out two consecutive words, but, when aided by glasses, begin to read distinctly, so Scripture, gathering together the impressions of Deity, which, till then, lay confused in our minds, dissipates the darkness, and shows us the true God clearly. Calvin, John; Institutes of the Christian Religion I.vi.1

I find this image most powerful if I imagine not a book, but a light that is invisible outside of the use of this lens. Put the glasses on, and you see the light everywhere you look - at the world around you, or graven on your own heart. But the Scriptures reveal the light - they are not the light. Or, if you're of a certain age, do you remember using a sheet of red plastic to find the hidden text in an old hint book? Get a filter of the right color (Scripture) and you can see God's hidden text all over the place. But, again, the text is visible through the filter - it is not the same thing as the filter. That one breaks down a bit more - one of the brightest sources of knowledge of God is in Scripture, but the base point that I want to underline here, the heresy I feel especially called to speak against, is that Scripture is not God. God is found in Scripture and in the world of our own experience, both internal and external, through Scripture, but God is not the Scriptures. Equate the two, and you have set up an idol in the form of a book. 'Ware.

Next week, the trinity and the later Pentateuch!

3 comments:

Brenda said...

Do you think that there is a special place in Christianity for scripture because of the beginning of the Gospel of John? (Which, to admit my biases, is probably #1 for being voted off the Island in my personal version of Survivor: Scripture.)

The Areopagite said...

The whole book? I want to keep John 1, if I can. One of my favorite passages.

Yes, absolutely. Scripture has a place of huge authority - the highest authority, when you want to get right down to it (sorry, Barkeep). That's not just a John 1 thing - that's a continuous thread throughout the whole bible (Deut. 10:18-21, Eph. 6:17, and many more - I can't believe I'm turning into one of those people). But there is a distinction to be made between the immanent Word of God who is Jesus Christ and the word of God which is the testimony of the saints concerning the Word. The Bible is the record of people who encountered God, frequently face to face. Having not shaken Jesus' hand, I am inclined to trust the witness of those who have.

Still - this does not permit us to raise the Scriptures to the detriment of Christ. I can argue some pretty terrible things from the Bible. It is worth asking, then, having gathered my evidence, how the Jesus I encounter in the Scriptures would respond to those evils.

Brenda said...

It's also worth remembering that the devil cited scripture when he argued with Jesus.