What is the role of the Church in interpreting the scripture today? This question Luke Timothy Johnson tackles head on in his Scripture and Discernment.
Johnson brings an emphasis on ecclesiology which is badly needed in the discussion on scripture. Johnson belives, scripture is compiled and delivered by the church, but also is a guide and source for the church. Scripture communicates a story that informs and reforms. It tells a story about how church should make decisions. Johnson sees this in Acts 15 where, although he is skeptical of the historicity of the account, he believes it is a prophetic witness of how the church should make decisions, (pg 71-79) and by it's inclusion into the life of the church, (canonization pg 35-38), it's voice is heard as authoritative (pg 75).
Johnson believes scripture is not the only authority. In examining other passages in Acts (4:23-31; 6:1-6; 9:26-30; 10:1-48;11:1-18;14:26-15-35) Johnson makes it clear that he believes that the decisions made in a church are rooted in Holy Scripture AND in a community of faith that is led by God's Spirit where issues that are not addressed in the scriptures, are attended to. In Acts the Apostles reinterpret the Hebrew Scriptures in ways that were never meant by the original authors in order to address a previously unforeseen situation (pg 85). Johnson believes that new ways forward should be done in obedience to the Holy Spirit as the community of faith tends to the story of faith (pg. 26) together.
Johnson thinks that this approach to scripture can find a possible way forward in the issue of homosexuality in the church. Although historically the Church has not seen homosexuality as a permissible Christian ethic, Johnson believes that this conviction was based on some assumptions that may not be true today. Although the scriptures clearly teach that Homosexuality is wrong, one can still move forward without abandoning scripture (pg 145). Johnson believes many homosexual relationships today are not grounded in a rebellion against natural law, but could be a genuine and natural expression of who indeviduals were created as (pg 146). Those who wish to explore this must be willing to bear a great burden of holiness (pg 126), which is a mark of God's Spirit.
I really like most of what Johnson has to say in this work. I love that it finds a way to uphold scripture and give a framework in which the Church and the Holy Spirit are still needed for the church to exist and move forward. I find no major disagreements on his basic idea on how scripture and church are to live out the life of Faith in the Holy Spirit together. However when he gets into specifics sometimes he reads motives into biblical authors that I don't think are sufficient. For example I think the issue of homosexuality has more nuance then Johnson makes it out to have (pg 145-146) it's possible Paul was not only looking at natural order, but a spiritual order sanctified by God.
Thursday, January 27, 2011
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
For this purpose, then, the incorporeal and incorruptible and immaterial Word of God entered our world. In one sense, indeed, He was not far from it before, for no part of creation had ever been without Him Who, while ever abiding in union with the Father, yet fills all things that are. But now He entered the world in a new way, stooping to our level in His love and Self-revealing to us. He saw the reasonable race, the race of men that, like Himself, expressed the Father’s Mind, wasting out of existence, and death reigning over all in corruption. He saw that corruption held us all the closer, because it was the penalty for the Transgression; He saw, too, how unthinkable it would be for the law to be repealed before it was fulfilled. He saw how unseemly it was that the very things of which He Himself was the Artificer should be disappearing. He saw how the surpassing wickedness of men was mounting up against them; He saw also their universal liability to death. All this He saw and, pitying our race, moved with compassion for our limitation, unable to endure that death should have the mastery, rather than that His creatures should perish and the work of His Father for us men come to nought, He took to Himself a body, a human body even as our own. Nor did He will merely to become embodied or merely to appear; had that been so, He could have revealed His divine majesty in some other and better way. No, He took our body, and not only so, but He took it directly from a spotless, stainless virgin, without the agency of human father—a pure body, untainted by intercourse with man. He, the Mighty One, the Artificer of all, Himself prepared this body in the virgin as a temple for Himself, and took it for His very own, as the instrument through which He was known and in which He dwelt. Thus, taking a body like our own, because all our bodies were liable to the corruption of death, He surrendered His body to death instead of all, and offered it to the Father. This He did out of sheer love for us, so that in His death all might die, and the law of death thereby be abolished because, having fulfilled in His body that for which it was appointed, it was thereafter voided of its power for men. This He did that He might turn again to incorruption men who had turned back to corruption, and make them alive through death by the appropriation of His body and by the grace of His resurrection. Thus He would make death to disappear from them as utterly as straw from fire.
- from Athanasius, ‘On the Incarnation’
Saturday, January 8, 2011
To Christians wine holds a special place among all drinks. It is the drink that is central to Christian worship, sacramental life, and one of the key mystical connections between the Church and Christ. This all stems from the fact that on the night Jesus was betrayed, He took wine in a cup and gave it to His disciples saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me." Ever since then Christians have struggled to follow this command in a context sometimes very different from the one in which Jesus instituted the sacrament of communion, which is sometimes called the Lord’s Supper, or the Eucharist (which means thanksgiving). The key to bringing this sacred meal into new cultures and settings requires that a examination of the many nuances that this drink has within the Biblical framework.
Wine in the Bible is a microcosm of the whole of human life and our relationship to God. Wine paradoxically communicates blessing and judgment, pleasure and pain, covenant and adultery, self-sacrifice and self-indulgence. From a biblical perspective wine is a powerful motif; there is no other drink which communicates so fully the depth of the ways God meets us, and initiates his mission on earth.
Download my E-Book on Wine from a biblical and sacramental perspective for FREE below!
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Sunday, January 2, 2011
How do you feel about their presentation of the Genesis fall narrative?
Do you find any theological or exegetical issues in how they present this video?
Free Fall from ProlifikFilms on Vimeo.