I was going to write a post on how I understand a relation between Biblical Studies and Theology, this was prompted by an ongoing discussion that has been happening between a pseudonymed named guy, Bryce Walker and Brian LePort. Their correspondence has spawned other responses; the links below take you to all of them:
- Bryce’s first post.
- Brian’s first response.
- Bryce’s response to Brian’s first post.
- Bryce keeps the discussion going.
- Bryce responds to Daniel Kirk, who jumped in on the convo.
And thus far that is it between Brian and Bryce. But then as I just noted above, others have jumped in (like Kirk). Here are the links to those posts, from these others:
- Daniel Kirk’s post.
- Matt Frost’s (a friend of my blogging) post.
- Ashleigh Bailey’s post.
- Chris Spinks post (by the way, Spinks is an editor at Wipf and Stock/Pickwick Publishers, and he edited our book. He and other editors at W & S have a blog that I am linking to here, check it out!).
Instead of me writing that post this evening, let me provide a transcription of a comment that I just made over at Brian’s to another commenter who was asking me about theological exegesis. He wanted to know how I could ensure that when I “say” we should do theological exegesis, that I am not merely importing my favorite pet theologians (like Torrance, Barth, or Calvin) theology into the text of scripture. Here is how I responded (in a bloggy manner and on the fly):
[...] the theologian—worth their salt—ought to be working at and from a grammar that is demanded by the theo-logic present in God’s life Self-revealed and thus interpreted in Jesus Christ (cf. Jn. 1:18). But of course this is always an open-ended dialectical and spiraling process; and it ought to be no other way, since we know, given the theo-logical implications of God’s Triune life that he is dynamic (V. static) relational, and a God of love who acts in grace (primarily known and exemplified in and through the Incarnation). So I don’t want to collapse the barometer for the meaning (of scripture) into a textual linguistic socio-cultural community (a la Lindbeck), but I see (riffing on the patristic ‘rule of faith’) the analogy or lens or purpose of scripture shaped in and through the life of God revealed in Jesus Christ. I know that seems ethereal, and probably abstract, but what I don’t think is abstract—but instead concrete and particular—is the enfleshing of God in Christ. The theologian’s task is to lay bare the web of beliefs that necessarily flow from this reality; and I take, for example, the so called ecumenical councils wranglings and wrestlings with this, early on, as exemplary of how Christians ought to seek to provide grammar for the theo-logic and christo-logic that scripture is presupposing upon in its occasional writings (which as Torrance would say is its ‘Depth Dimension’). So unlike, Brian (and NT Wright), I am not ready to look at the Patristic era and the theology “started” there as if it is part of some sort of “salad bar” wherein I can choose if I want to take some of this or that; no, I believe that we must listen to the teachers of the Church (the past) as if Jesus Christ himself gave them to her for her edification. But of course I see this kind of “always reforming” principle as something that is an ongoing reality, and thus even the grammar provided in the Patristic era (as formative as it is!) is open to further clarification and critique (but not simple abandonment) as we continue to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ, as we are moving toward attaining (finally!) the unity of the Faith. I am not interested in merely repristinating the past (we have the post-Reformed orthodox … and the Eastern Orthodox for that), but I am interested in engaging the past insofar as the rich and deep heritage provided therein fosters a depth relation to and understanding of our Triune God revealed in Jesus Christ. So my question to Brian was in fact really noting something, ironically, that I don’t think anyone can assure; but then, I do think if we are going to be theological realists (which I am, or ‘critical’), and if we are going to do Theological Science(as TF Torrance does it, which also serves as a title for one of his books)—meaning that our categories and emphases for inquiry will be defined as the object of our consideration imposes ‘himself’ (or itself) upon us (Torrance calls this an ‘epistemological inversion’)—then the ground for arbitrating what is true and sure will indeed, and once again, be the theo-logic that is present from the revelation of God in Christ.
So I know that much of my post is repetitive. The moral of my comment and belief can be summed up thusly: The revelation of God in Jesus Christ is the rule of faith by which all of the occasional writings of scripture (given the reality of all of their various types, genres and forms etc.) ought to be framed; because they all (even given their particularities and idiosyncrasies) trade on the same kergymatic reality of God’s life in Christ (or they all presume upon a theological reality about who God is, and that reality is only understood, according to scripture, through the explanation given in Jesus Christ cf. John 1:18).
That is my initial response. I will be working on a post that will hopefully be a bit more nuanced and even more concrete in what I am trying to communicate.