Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Use of the Bible in Contemporary Debates: Aberdeen Press and Journal

Today's Press and Journal from Aberdeen has a good piece by Ron Ferguson on the use of the Bible in contemporary debates and the need to retain multiple interpretations. The proximate cause is the debate around the appointment of The Rev. Scott Rennie as minister of Queen's Cross Church in Aberdeen. But the author uses the diversity of biblical texts as the warrant for a diversity of biblical interpretations. At stake is the authority of the bible not particular passages invoked in the debate about same-sex relations.

The challenge for today’s Churches is one of the interpretation of scriptures which were originally written to address quite different situations. Many of the dietary and purity laws of the Old Testament, for instance, were very much of their times.

How much of these teachings is directly applicable to us in the Year of Our Lord 2009? Which teachings are binding today, and which are well past their sell-by date? The Old Testament was written in Hebrew and the New Testament in Greek. We do not have the original manuscripts. Every translation from Hebrew or Greek into, say, English, is itself a piece of interpretation. Scholars genuinely disagree about some of these interpretations.

Many parts of the Bible are clearly directly applicable to today’s Church and today’s world. Others are not.

Here's the conclusion:

I believe that the Church needs both “conservatives” and “liberals”. Neither party holds the franchise on biblical truth.

We need those who pull us towards the tradition, and those who pull us towards the modern world. The tension of these different tugs may help us to stand upright on the slippery slope of Christian decision-making.

On that dangerous gradient, the Kirk may even manage to be a tear-stained community of brokenness and grace: which is where, I believe, God is calling the Church to be.

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