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Asking “Why?” and then looking to the Bible April 12, 2006

Posted by fajita in Uncategorized.

Malcolm Gladwell, thoughtful author and columnist, reviewed the book, “Why? by Charles Tilly. Since Malcolm went ahead and read the book, now I don’t have to. He boils down the book to this:

We employ four kinds of explanations, he says: conventions (social formulae), stories (common sense narratives), codes (legal formulae) and technical accounts (specialized stories). And we get into trouble when we use one kind of reason in a context where another is necessary. (I added all of the special effects here)

Now, let’s take a look at Wade Hodge’s brief review of Scot McKnight’s categories of viewing scripture below:

Sacramental: the Scripture leads us to the Beyond as we read it; heavily shaped by community; not always true. (Marcus Borg) Clarification: ďtrueĒ in this statement refers to historical accuracy.

Inerrant/Infallible: the Bible is never wrong about anything (science, too); always true.

True: you simply confess the Bible to be true and donít care to say any more than that.

True Christian story, still ongoing: you see Scripture as Story, and it is Godís true Story, and the Scripture prompts the re-use of that Story in our world today in various ways. (N. T. Wright)

True in matters of faith and practice: the Bible is true on these issues, but can be wrong about science or history or other matters.

Infallible, with Tradition: Scripture is infallible; Godís Word, but it is in need of authorized interpretation and the Churchís Tradition is the work of God.

Historical origins: you see the Bible to be the historical foundation of the Church; it is simply historical; not inspired in the traditional sense that it lifts it out of the norm of writing; Scripture is as human as anything we experience, even if God uses it to lead the Church today.

Let’s go back to what Gladwell says is the problem in knowing why? He said:

And we get into trouble when we use one kind of reason in a context where another is necessary.

  • Don’t we get into trouble when we believe the Bible to written in one and only one genre?
  • Don’t we get into trouble when we ask the Bible questions it isn’t even trying to answer?
  • Aren’t we skating on thin ice when we believe the Bible was written for me in my time and my social context in my language?
  • Can we really let anyone get away with saying, ‘it says what it means and means what it says?’

What we have in the postmodern world that we did not have much of in the modern world (physics, sociology, politics, religion etc) is a deepening awareness that all of life is contextualized within something else – something that, in way or another, is fleeting. Furthermore, not only is everything within a context of something else, which has implications for meaning, everything is context for something else. I am your context and you are mine. I contribute to your meaning and you to mine. And even beyoond that, there is mystery. Where intelligence in modernity strove to eliminate mystery, intelligence in postmodernity seeks out thos places where mystery exists.

Now, certainly there is the construct of power which usually imposes itself and forces its desired meaning here and htere, but where there is power asserting itself, there is usually a countercurrent working in the opposite, or perhaps just another, direction.

This is important for understanding the Bible because denominations are “distinct” because they, as a collective who agree to support similar views, view the Bible differently than each other. They have to do this or else they would not know who is in and who is out.

With the advent of the emerging church, the denominational power structure is (very slowly) feeling the pressure of the emerging countercurrent, which amazingly does not rely upon one or even a few ways of interpretting the Bible. Now, should emergent become a denomination, which some fear that it it will, then there will be a power problem again and they wil have to find ways to figure out who is in and wh is out. That just can’t happen. My point is this: emergent makes space for new and different ways to interpret that same Bible and there doesn’t need to be conflict in disagreement.

Finally, and I know that this is getting long and boring and I am on a blogmania roll here, it is important to learn how other people interpret the Bible because there is going to be a whole lot more understanding when we know the rules everyone is playing by. You can’t just play ball. You have to learn basketball, baseball, cricket, polo, ping pong etc.



1. Justin - April 12, 2006

so what category of driscolls do you think you fit into Chris? You seem to be in 3.0 but I could be wrong. Would you get yourself into trouble if you blogged about some of the theological positions you’re thinking about now (or have thought about before)

2. EL MOL - April 12, 2006

is there an emergent church in jonesboro?

3. Fajita - April 12, 2006

el mol, there is no congregation/gathering/cohort, if that is what you mean by church – besides a couple of attempts at relevance, but they are pretty much just Baptist with candles.

There is emergence, however, here and there in some individuals – the younger the person the more likely they are spiritual and unchurched (or comply with parents to go to the church they hate). I see that Jonesboro is a prime spot for there to be an emerging church because it is so Bible Belt and many of the teens and some of the 20’s crowd just can’t stand it, not one bit longer. I’m a therapist and I get someone at least monthly who is dying in their church and they have no options.

I’m moving to Minnesota in a couple of months or else I might be more interested in getting something started.

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