Worth Reading - 4/21

One rarely finds oneself trampled by herds of evangelicals making their way to the Augustine section of the local bookstore. One reason for this, of course, is that evangelical bookstores don’t even have such a thing as an “Augustine section.” Where would they find the room amidst all the Precious Moments figurines, test tubes of anointing oil, and tins of Test-a-Mints? The mighty Augustine can’t compete.

A more significant reason for Augustine neglect is the mere fact that he lived a very long time ago. We Americans rarely read old books, and Augustine’s are old books. We tend to limit ourselves by era, tribe, and category—we read books written in our day, by people just like us, and that can be placed in one or two limited genres. We find it hard to imagine that a bishop living 1,600 years ago might have something to teach us. But this sort of epistolary reductionism is to our detriment: older books are precisely the ones that can help us to escape the limitations of our current era, learn from those who are not a part of our local tribe, and transcend the categories to which we have become accustomed. Plus, we get the added benefit of having time itself weed out the bad works, leaving us with the gems.

2. Hugh Welchel from the Institute for Faith, Work and Economics explaining how a limited worldview has truncated a sense of responsibility for faithful living in this world:

Scripture begins with the creation of all things and ends with the renewal of all things. In between it offers an interpretation of the meaning of all history. In his book The New Testament and the People of God, N.T. Wright says that the divine drama told in Scripture “offers a story which is the story of the whole world. It is public truth.”

The biblical story makes a comprehensive claim on all humanity, calling each one of us to find our place in God’s story.

3. Karen Swallow Prior explain why the argument that Jesus never explicitly said something is an example of bad hermeneutics:

Red Letter Christians emphasize the words of Jesus printed in red in some modern versions of the Bible. The movement made its official entrance onto the evangelical platform nearly ten years ago, setting out “to take Jesus seriously by endeavoring to live out his radical, counter-cultural teachings as set forth in Scripture, and embracing the lifestyle prescribed in the Sermon on the Mount.”

Red Letter Christians claim, “You can only understand the rest of the Bible when you read it from the perspective provided by Christ.”

But practice can’t be separated from interpretation.

While the highest levels of biblical and literary hermeneutics seem to confound us, a basic and valid interpretive lens for reading the Bible can be as straightforward as approaching a great literary work. (Of course, as most college freshmen will tell you—and this English professor will confirm—skillful reading of literature doesn’t come naturally. It must be learned.)

The inspired Word of God, the Bible is also a literary work written with artistry, a narrative arc, and themes both major and minor. Just as there are valid and invalid approaches to reading Huckleberry Finn, there are right and wrong ways to read the Bible. As readers, whether our text is God-breathed or merely mortal, we must take into account genre, purpose, audience, structure, and point of view. We find meaning by understanding each passage within context of the whole.

4. The latest edition of Themelios, the journal of The Gospel Coalition, is out and available free online. I've got a book review in this issue in the Systematic Theology section.