Genesis 3-4; 12: For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
Romans 8: For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.
Revelation 21-22 : No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants[h] will worship him.
Scriptural authority – needs an integrated view, including listening, wresting with, obedience and proclamation.
Scriptural ‘reading’ may encompass a range of tasks but:
We read scripture in order to be refreshed in our memory and understanding of the story within which we ourselves are actors, to be reminded where it has come from and where it is going to be, and hence what our own part within it ought to be
The Bible (and not just the newspaper/latest political fashion) in hand, in which the church can go to work in the world – confident that Jesus is Lord, and Caesar is not. Not about ‘telling people what the Bible says’, but about radical transformation of life, a personalized faith. Can happen if just the Bible is read, but more commonly comes about through the work of God’s people – who understand it and apply it to their own lives. That authority works at the cosmic, political and personal level.
Church needs to pay attention to tradition, listening carefully/humbly/not uncritically to how read/lived scripture in the past… helps us understand what we read ‘naturally’. We should see the ‘living voice’ of the ‘very human church’ as it struggles with scripture… why this is a fresh challenge for each generation.
We need to pay attention to reason, to being attentive to context (especially our own biases), detail, etc. where public discussions and debates (NOT shouting matches) are so important… rather than trying to ‘wipe one’s opponent off the board’. Pay attention to the input of other subjects, such as science (which studies the repeatable) and history (which studies the unrepeatable?) – reason forms the language of understanding.
We need a multi-layered view of God, understanding genre, setting, literary style, etc… and take care when referring to The Bible as one book [especially when used for lifestyle understanding].
5-Act Hermeneutic: Creation, ‘Fall’, Israel, Jesus, the Church. Even if we don’t accept this model, we need some kind of overarching narrative, otherwise becomes mere ‘fuel for devotion’ – there is continuity with previous acts (as plays), but that continuity implies change. “We must be ferociously loyal to what has gone before and cheerfully open about what must come next.”
e.g. We can discuss how things were, but not directly change that (e.g. Garden of Eden) as it will be, as it will have been transformed and fulfilled. We should not imagine a world without redemption. We don’t need to rebuild [live by?] OT structures such as the Temple. We are not living in Gospel times so the rules may be different, but that is the foundation for our current lives – they are not relativized by the passing of time, or by cultural shifts. We are living in ‘the fifth act’, after which will come a new creation… we ‘improvising’, which doesn’t mean a ‘free for all’, but “a disciplined and careful listening to all the other voices around us, and a constant attention to the themes, rhythms, and harmonies of the complete performance so far, the performance which are now called to continue.” This may include ‘fresh expressions’ – all churches need to ‘play the same tune’, but may devise their own variations, though not from other tunes, or with a different ending … this understanding would lead to more respectful interactions.
Contextual reading of scripture – each word within a verse à within a chapter à within a book à within its historical, cultural and canonical setting. All is ‘culturally conditioned’, so cannot add/set some aspects aside. We need to understand both the culture of the time, and our own culture… this will be an ongoing project! Work with both the bigger picture and the detail.. read incarnationally – paying attention to both the humanity of the text and of its readers.
The key importance of corporate worship, where the Bible is read – we’re prepared for it, appreciate it, and given the opportunity to meditate further on it… not just to understand content, but to use the media to shape the mind and life of the community. The readings should be arranged so that glimpses into the story of both the OT and NT are seen, rather than lost as a pre-cursor to a sermon. At communion:
“Scripture forms God’s people, warming their hearts as with the disciples on the road to Emmaus, so that their eyes may then be opened to know him in the breaking of the bread.”
For life-changing transformations, then ordinary Christians need to read, encounter, and study scripture for themselves, in groups and individually. Since the enlightenment, the Western world has prioritised private reading, but Wright would emphasise communal reading/understanding. The church should understand what individual readers are discovering in the text, facilitating bringing a range of viewpoints to the wider body, enriching the larger community, and ensuring that maverick/misleading readings can be gentle/appropriately corrected. Fresh insights presented by churches should build up, rather than threaten – the mission and life of the church – scholarly research is encouraged, but the framework used should be taken with care, as scholars will always be working within a framework of some kind. The church needs to re-establish a hermeneutic of trust, rather than a hermeneutic of suspicion and anti-intellectualism.
Church leaders need to examine their practice, especially at the more senior levels, where life becomes so busy, there’s no time for fresh, careful, prayerful re-interpretation of the text, but rather an old sermon is shaken off… The importance of sermons as the place where heaven and earth meets .. as a time of sacrament.
Session 2:1 – Creation-Fall (Matt Lynch)
Act 1: Creational Shalom & Unfinished Tasks – humanity is not only to tend the garden, but to help it flourish and become what it has not yet become.
Act 2: Falling out between God, creation and humanity. Fallout was not just felt by humans, but by all parties involved. Not just humans implicated, but the serpent. Originally parity of humans, now we have hierarchy, plus shame, fear and hiding … complicating the ability of God to carry out his creational purposes. Sin as a theological problem – the serpent introduces the question of God’s goodness/abundance and blessing. As Adam/Eve questions this – they act in rebellion to God, as they seek an autonomous wisdom.
Sin and death are now in the picture, so how will God accomplish his purposes.
Session 2:1 Flood-Israel
Act 3: The floodwaters sent over the earth covered a world that was already ruined…. God (with Noah) is already preparing the way for a new creation. However, the ‘damaged’ humanity took their issues/damage onto the ark, so God promised never to destroy in the same way again – so what is he now going to do to uphold the integrity of creation? Creation post-flood is an act of grace.
Act 4: Most important part of this story is the calling of Abraham, as the start of the nation of Israel. In the Song of Songs we have a recapturing of the original equality, and – set in a garden – Eden can be recaptured if people live out God’s will in the world. Old, infertile couple to become immigrants in a foreign land as the solution to the fallen world… God chooses King David to represent Israel … Solomon is to build a temple – Kings has many high points with times of obedience, with glimpses of the Garden of Eden – but mixed with ongoing reaching for autonomy and idolatrous rebellion.
Session 2:3: Exile Jesus
Act 5: Exile and the death of Israel – back to Babylon – the land, the people, etc. were all devastated, so there was a question as to whether God was still good, and faithful to his people. Not a return just to the land, but the resurrection of a righteous people – God breathing in new life and becoming ‘covered with skin’. There is a return to the land – in Nehemiah, they are still in a condition of slavery.
Act 6: Jesus and the restoration of humanity. Previously was God focused on Israel? Is that scrapped to focus on the wider church? Think about the story in context of his Jewish identity. What is so significant as the Jewish story? He comes as the representative of Israel before God, but also the representative of humanity (what Israel couldn’t do on its own). With trust in Jesus, we get the benefits of his obedience.
Session 2:4: New Creation and Review
Act 7: The story of new creation … we as humanity have not yet reached this stage. We don’t know what this is going to look like – God isn’t go to start again, but burn off what doesn’t endure. Including the sea (seen as chaos in Biblical thinking).
Jesus came, as a human, to connect the past and the future … in this he accomplishes the tasks given to Adam and Eve in the beginning. By succeeding where humanity has failed, the reconciliation process begins, with the accompaniment of the Holy Spirit.
Col 1: 19-20 – Christ comes in weakness, something that we can see as a pattern of God, but works through them. The weak things of the world shame the wise. We need weaning off our idolatrous pretensions – our wish for fame, power, significance – our reaching after Godlikeness.
Now have a sense of the bigger picture, and next – unpacking the significance of living out this story as Christians in the world.
Dr Bex Lewis is passionate about helping people engage with the digital world in a positive way, where she has more than 20 years’ experience. She is Senior Lecturer in Digital Marketing at Manchester Metropolitan University and Visiting Research Fellow at St John’s College, Durham University, with a particular interest in digital culture, persuasion and attitudinal change, especially how this affects the third sector, including faith organisations, and, after her breast cancer diagnosis in 2017, has started to research social media and cancer. Trained as a mass communications historian, she has written the original history of the poster Keep Calm and Carry On: The Truth Behind the Poster (Imperial War Museum, 2017), drawing upon her PhD research. She is Director of social media consultancy Digital Fingerprint, and author of Raising Children in a Digital Age: Enjoying the Best, Avoiding the Worst (Lion Hudson, 2014) as well as a number of book chapters, and regularly judges digital awards. She has a strong media presence, with her expertise featured in a wide range of publications and programmes, including national, international and specialist TV, radio and press, and can be found all over social media, typically as @drbexl.