Exploring the Word
I read with great interest "How to Read the Bible" [October], and appreciated J. Todd Billings's emphasis on a theological interpretation of Scripture. But there is a conundrum, as he points out: We derive our theology from our Bible, but our theology drives our interpretation of the Bible.
I believe that if we link a contextual interpretation of Scripture (literary, grammatical, and cultural/historical) and an understanding of genre with a theological interpretation, we will resolve the challenge of bringing God's ancient, unchanging truths to a 21st-century audience that desperately needs transformation in Christ.
As a pastor, Bible scholar, and Christian, I take issue with Billings's thesis. He presents a theological reading of Scripture as superior, when it can be either superior or inferior. In fact, he presents one theological read as if it were the only one available.
I wonder if the answer is not preferring one approach to reading the Bible, but rather rejecting a postmodern attitude that "all readings are equally good." There is usually something to be gained from every approach, and all have their strengths and weaknesses. A theological reading is no more or less open to abuse and errors than any other kind. It's the ability to be self-critical, in any and every reading of the Bible, that makes for powerful, life-altering interpretations.
I'm not at all surprised that people who read the Bible hold to a personal ethos that is often described as liberal ["A Left-Leaning Text," October]. As a "reading, politically conservative literalist," I have much in common with people across the political spectrum when discussing societal ills. We part company because my faith demands a personal response, ...1