Sunday, November 20, 2005

What Controls You?

A couple of different events are converging at once, prompting this post. One of which is some recent reflections I've had on narrative theology (most recently, Justin Taylor brought out the connection between narrative theology and emergent/emerging). The other series of events that leads me to these thoughts is the series of sermons we find ourselves in at Grace Fellowship. We're currently in Romans 9 and working through what it means that God 'has mercy on whom he wills, and hardens whom he wills.'

It's a basic presupposition of many people that you must allow a certain set of texts (be they divided by genre, place in redemptive-history, author, whatever) to control the other sets of texts.

For example, because of their predisposition to narrative theology, open theists say that the 'divine repentance texts' must have priority over the seeming 'exhaustive detail sovereignty texts' in teaching us how God interacts with people. In fact, the narrative texts ultimately determine how we interpret those other texts.

This post will obviously not resolve all (or perhaps any) of the problems raised within these issues. That being said, I want to suggest that we sometimes overlook basic rules of logic when it comes to interpreting the Bible. In other words, sometimes we think that we have to have an entirely different type of thinking cap on when we're reading God's word.

Here's an example of what I mean. One of my all-time favourite bands is braveSaintSaturn (although I think they may be defunct now...?). I love this band so much because I can identify with the poetry, allegory, images, and emotions conveyed in their art. It pulls at my heart. As they sing, I interpret everything that they say... and to be honest, I think I get it. I think I totally understand what the author of that song was trying to get across.

But I could be wrong. The other day I read an interview with Reese Roper, the lead singer of the band, and the guy that writes most of their lyrics. He started talking about what the symbols meant, and what he was trying to get across in various songs. Now, if he had've explained that a certain image meant something completely different than what I had expected, who would be right? Should I still insist that the image is what makes sense to me? Or should I understand that in his mind, he meant to convey something else, and let his explanation govern my interpretation?

Basically, my point is this: We sometimes forget that all revelation did not always exist (it came in sequence) and that not all Scripture is equally clear (2 Pet 3.16). Just as poetry provides brilliant images and draws on emotions and encourages audience involvement, so does the narrative of the OT (and gospels and Acts). But, if we understand the concept that there is one author of the whole Bible--as there was one author who both wrote the braveSaintSaturn songs and spoke about them in the interview--(see 2 Pet 1.16-21; 2 Tim 3.16; and Heb 1), then we must understand that what comes later, and clearly interprets all of narrative history (cf Romans and Hebrews for example), is intended to control our theology. This is especially true of theology proper.

What in the world does all that mean? Simply this: When we read things in the Bible that confuse us about God, we allow the newer revelation to control the older (cf Heb 1.1-2) because it is better. It interprets what came before. This is a simple principle that we apply all the time to other things we read, we just seem to miss it somehow when we read our Bible. Maybe we have a 'presupposition-driven theology.'

1 comment:

jshelley78 said...

Every philosophy, theology and interpretation relies on its own rules to reach its own conclusions (Reformed Theological Seminary's own John Frame even says so...) :)