Tuesday, July 12, 2011

People and Scripture

According to Friedrich Schleiermacer, we must "avoid the impression that a doctrine must belong to Christianity because it is contained in Scripture, whereas in point of fact it is only contained in Scripture because it belongs to Christianity."

One of the areas I would like to explore further as I continue my theological journey is the relationship between the people of God and Scripture, and the nature of the things which this relationship seems to generate - doctrine, ethics, ecclesial practice etc.

Right now my conviction is that some of us have the relationship backwards. This thinking posits that Scripture comes first, and out of it the people of God are formed. But in reality it is the people of God who are formed first, and it is through this people that Scripture is produced. This applies not only to "back then" but very much to the here and now. The people of God, the interpretive community, continues to produce Scripture in the sense that it continues to produce the reality in which Scripture is read as Scripture. Of course the body of people only produce this reality by their connection to the head of the body and by the life of the spirit flowing through them.

Back to Schleiermacher's point, we don't say that God is love because our Scripture says it. Rather, our Scripture says it because that is the kind of God who is revealed to (and who even creates) the people of God in the Christ-event, and these unveiled and newly created people are witnesses to and ambassadors of this same love. "God is love" is only contained in Scripture because there existed (and exists) a people of God for whom these words are intelligible and meaningful, in so much as they point to a reality that exists outside of the words but which nonetheless must be named with words.

I'm not sure if that makes sense, or if I even agree with Schleiermacher (or myself), but this is my quick attempt at drawing a monster, so to speak.


  1. Good thoughts. You almost make me want to go back and read Vanhoozer's big orange book again:


  2. That big orange book sits on my bedside locker pleading for me to stop making excuses for not reading it. Coincidentally, "you're too big" and "you're too orange" are the excuses I keep coming back to, although right now I'm telling it that I just have to read Lindbeck's book first and then I'll start on it, but we both know that's a lie.