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Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Unpacking the suitcase

I took a brief break this morning from reading about the Oath of Allegiance under James I reign that called upon England's subjects to give full allegiance to the king while the Gun Powder Plot (RC Jesuits who were going to blow up Parliament to rid themselves of a king who was rejecting papal authority to depose him from the crown.) was continuing to be investigated. In my break, I picked up Bishop Tom Wright's new book Scripture and the Authority of God. One of the things about Bishop Tom, besides the fact that you can buy his books by the metre since there are so many, is his ability to say things so well. Looking at what he calls the 'the heart of the issue,' that is of putting scripture and its authority as a part of the larger whole and fixing it within its proper place, he writes:

"In Christian theology, such phrases regularly act as 'portable stories,' that is, ways of packing up longer narratives about God, Jesus, the church and the world, folding them away into convenient suitcases, and then carrying them about with us. (A good example is the phrse 'the antonement.' This phrase is rare in the Bible itself; instead, we find things like 'the Messiah died for our sins according to the sciptures'; 'God so loved the world that he gave his only son,' and so on. But if we are to discuss the atonement, it is easier to do so with a single phrase, assumed to 'contain' all these sentences, than by repeating one or more of them each time.) Shorthands, in other words, are useful in the same way that suitcases are. They enable us to pick up lots of complicated things and carry them around all together. But we should never forget that the point of doing so, like the point of carrying belongings in a suitcase, is that they can then be unpacked and put to use in the new location. Too much debate about scriptural authority has had the form of people hitting one another over the head with locked suitcases. It is time to unpack our shorthand doctrines, to lay them out and inspect them. Long years in a suitcase may have made some of the contents go mouldy. They will benefit from fresh air, and perhaps a hot iron." (Scripture and the Authority of God, p. 18)

1 Comments:

Blogger Michael Spencer said...

I corrowed this for the BHT banner. Thanks :-)

4:56 am  

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