Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Bibliolatry 102

Following up on my last post, one reponse to the danger of Christians being overly monomanaical in their focus on the Bible is.."Really, what difference does it make?" On the one hand, not necessarily much. There's much depth and power and guidance to be found in a straight-up reading of the Torah, Prophets, Writings, Gospels, and Epistles. I've known folk who were hard core fundamentalists theologically, yet were gentle, graceful and kind, clearly manifesting the fruits of the Spirit. And we're to know what is true to Christ by the fruit it bears, n'est pas?

On the other hand, I'm convinced that we've reached a point in the development of Christian faith when literal inerrancy of scripture is becoming idolatrous, in the same way that the inerrancy of the church became idolatrous in pre-Reformation Catholicism. Both Holy Scripture and the Church with a Capital C are good things...no, they're holy things... but when we assume that they derive their authority from themselves, we're taking a dangerous theological step.

A church is authentically the Body of Christ if..and only if..it is illuminated by and guided by the presence of the Holy Spirit. If we confuse our stumbling efforts at articulating doctrine and internal discipline with that Spirit and the gifts of grace it imbues, we fail. Scripture is similarly authoritative only because it is theopneustos, which means "God-breathed." Demanding that we approach these sacred texts as empirically true, as a priori true, seems to do violence to the source and nature of their truth.

Christianity can't allow itself to succumb to the Colbert Tautology, in which we assert that the Bible is True Because the Bible Says It is True. The Bible is true because it was written by people who were filled with and struggling with the reality of their experience of the Holy Spirit. It's that shared experience of the divine that speaks to us as we read the texts. It's that Holy Spirit which gives those texts authority, and allows them to inform our lives and relationship with God thousands of years after they were written.

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